Late Abilene Teacher Leaves $200,000 to College

A devoted alumnus of Emporia State University has left the university a remarkable gift for student scholarships through the realization of two insurance policies.

Robert Chatham, who passed away August 21, 2021, set the stage for his $200,000 gift to the ESU Foundation back in 1993, when he took out two policies — $100,000 to provide for student scholarships within ESU’s departments of biological sciences and mathematics and $100,000 for student-athlete scholarships among the minor sports (all sports except football and basketball).

As a high school biology and math teacher, Chatham knew he’d never be wealthy — but he also knew he could provide substantial support for ESU students by paying modest premiums on the policies. Naming the ESU Foundation as the owner and beneficiary of the policies, his legacy at ESU has been intact ever since. He hopes the gift encourages others to consider leaving a similar legacy for ESU and its students.

Chatham earned his bachelor’s degree in education in biology in 1957 with a minor in math and his master’s degree in biology in 1962, both from ESU. He taught for 34 years at Abilene High School, where he encouraged many Abilene students to attend ESU. He was known as “Mr. ESU” for his love of his alma mater and his continued support of ESU and was recognized in 1987 with the University Service Citation award. He was a fixture in the stands of most ESU athletic events, and was a regular donor to the university.

Chatham’s two sons, Brian (BS 1986) and Mike (BS1986), also graduated from ESU and have gone on to enjoy successful careers.