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Remembering Donna Vanier

Todd PittengerMay 25, 2020

A woman known for her philanthropy is being remembered. Donna Vanier, who was a big supporter of Kansas State University and St. John’s Military School, passed away on Saturday.

The scriptures say, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” Luke 12:48. To Donna Vanier, this was much more than Biblical council. It was a way of life.

Born in Salina, Kansas, on October 24, 1934, to Willis and Helen Lindsey, Donna Vanier is preceded in death by her parents and brother, Douglas.

She is survived by her husband of 65 years, John K. (Jack) Vanier, daughter Mary Vanier of Manhattan, daughter Dr. Marty Vanier of Manhattan and her stepchildren Katie, Kirsten and Kathy, and son John K. Vanier II of Salina, his daughters Lauren and Sarah, his wife Kim, and stepchildren Pallie, Landon, Jess, Ty, Jake & Norah.

Donna Vanier possessed an outlook on life that focused on others and needed to look no further than her own family and community to make a difference.

When her family’s way of life called, Donna Vanier replied with time, talent and treasure.

Donna Vanier lived most of her adult life with her husband on the CK Ranch outside of Brookville, Kansas. As matriarch of a ranch family, her commitment to their way of life did not stop at the fence line. She worked harder at CK Ranch than anyone; active in all aspects of the cattle business including producing the ranch’s annual production sale catalogs, hosting countless ranch tour groups, tracking cattle inventories, and making employees and their families feel valued and appreciated.  Her dedication and support of her family and her family’s work was motivated by care and kindness.  She was one of the founders of the American Hereford Association Auxiliary and sought to ensure leadership in the next generation of agriculture by offering scholarships through the Hereford Youth Foundation and the Kansas 4-H Foundation.

When Salina, Kansas, called, Donna Vanier answered with benevolence.

She served as the driving force behind the creation of the Donna L. Vanier Children’s Center, which opened in 2012. Donna also served many years as: treasurer of the Christ Cathedral Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Western Kansas; founding board member of the Greater Salina Community Foundation; Chair of the governing Boards of the Salina Regional Health Foundation, the Rolling Hills Museum, and St. John’s Military School; and was a contributing member to countless other local boards and organizations.

When Kansas State University called, Donna Vanier responded with generosity.

At K-State, her service and leadership included roles on the KSU Foundation Board of Directors, the Ahearn Scholarship Board, where she originated the Powercat Auction, and Chair of the Beach Museum of Art Board of Visitors. Through these acts and countless others, Donna Vanier earned the Kansas State University Medal of Excellence, which recognizes those who have advanced K-State through exceptional service, leadership and philanthropic contributions.

When her friends and family called, Donna Vanier was always there with love.

Not one to forget a birthday, anniversary or other significant milestone, Donna Vanier  was the truest of friends and a source of wisdom and kindness. Her many friends from the Salina area, the cattle business and the K-State family brought her immense joy.

To whom much is given, much will be required. The scripture from Luke is an exhortation to vigilance.  Generosity, strength, benevolence, toughness, vigilance. Over the generations, the Kansas culture has cultivated an apt description for people like Donna Vanier. She was a do-gooder. Wherever she went, Donna Vanier did good. The scripture ends, “And of him to whom they have entrusted much, they will demand more.” As her family stated, “Donna understood innately what God expected of her and her life reflected it.”

Funeral service plans will be made and announced when COVID-19 gathering restrictions are lifted. The family suggests memorial gifts to any of the following organizations: the St. Francis Ministries of Salina; the KSU Foundation; the Christ Cathedral Endowment Fund in Salina; the Meadowlark Hills Good Samaritan Fund in Manhattan; and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Manhattan. Memorials may be sent in care of Ryan Mortuary, 137 N. 8th Street, Salina, Kansas 67401.

K-State leaders offered their condolences to the Vanier family.

University President Richard Myers:

“Donna Vanier exemplified what K-State family is all about. She personified our values and set an example of leadership and graciousness that extended to all whose lives she touched. She will be missed, but her legacy of service and kindness to others will be remembered. Donna will live on in our collective memory as a great friend to her state and university.

Amy Button Renz, president and chief executive officer of the K-State Alumni Association:

“Donna’s support of so many areas at K-State, including the Alumni Association and Alumni Center, was transformational. She and Jack provided the funding for the bronze Wildcat Statue at the K-State Alumni Center. This statue has quickly become a K-State icon and a visible reminder of the sense of family and support K-Staters have for one another. Her legacy of kindness and generosity will carry on and we are forever grateful to have had her as a member of our K-State family. I know the thoughts and prayers of the Wildcat community are with Jack and the entire Vanier family.”

Gene Taylor, director of K-State Athletics:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of the all-time great K-Staters in Donna Vanier. Words cannot begin to explain the impact the Vanier family has had on the entire Kansas State community, and Donna’s caring personality and love for the Wildcats will forever be remembered. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jack, Mary, Marty, John and the entire Vanier family during this emotional time.”

Greg Willems, president and chief executive officer of the KSU Foundation:

“Few individuals have been as influential to the K-State family as Donna Vanier. Along with her husband, Jack, and their children, John, Marty and Mary, Donna maintained a lifelong commitment to Kansas State University and our broader Kansas community. Donna thoughtfully and passionately supported K-State students, faculty and staff, and the breadth of that generosity can be seen and felt across our campuses and programs. Her outstanding service to her community and care for others will forever be an inspiration to the K-State family.”

St. John’s Military School Message:

Donna Vanier passed away on Saturday, May 23rd. Throughout her life she was associated with St. John’s Military School. Upon meeting Donna it was quickly apparent that she was a passionate supporter of the school. A plaque out side Armstrong chapel reads; Dedicated to Donna Vanier for her many contributions to St. John’s and in recognition of her love of this chapel. For many years, Donna attended chapel with the Cadets at St. John’s and provided flowers for the alter. Donna’s connection to St. John’s ran deep. She served as a member of the board of trustees, spearheaded the St. John’s Foundation, mounted countless fundraising efforts on the Cadets’ behalf, and tirelessly supported the school in many areas. All this can be readily documented through photos and publications, but her spirit, firm handshake in spite of her small stature, and her passion for St. John’s remains vivid in the hearts and minds of those who knew her. A multitude of Cadets were awarded scholarships in her name and her interest in those Cadets was keen. It was often Donna herself  who presented the Cadet with their scholarship certificate. Wendy Stein visited Donna in late February of 2020 and states, “Donna’s smile could light up a room. When I presented Donna with a paper weight with an image of the Vanier Academic Center, she took it in her hands like it was gold. At that moment it was apparent that her memory was strong of the school she loved. I will remember with great fondness this beautiful and strong woman who spent a lifetime in service to the causes she loved.”


Copyright © Meridian Media, 2021. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without Meridian Media’s express consent.





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