Gratitude & giving back

Stephen Imbler

While still a teenager, Stephen Imbler (at the piano) won a contest to perform with the Wichita Symphony.

Through their estate gifts, donors tell unique life stories

It is relatively common for alumni and other supporters of Wichita State to earmark a portion of their estates to benefit the school. But the past few months have seen some particularly generous and meaningful gifts to the WSU Foundation in this impactful category.

A typical theme among these planned gifts is appreciation: The alumni and friends making these legacy commitments are reflecting on how their time at Wichita State positively influenced their lives and how they want tomorrow’s students to have similar experiences.

“It has been gratifying and at times poignant to hear the WSU stories of these donors,” says Mike Lamb, a WSU Foundation vice president who oversees planned giving. “Wichita State has a special place in their hearts and they want to help make sure the university continues to have that impact on future generations.”

The boost in planned giving seems to coincide with a national trend fundraisers have seen in recent months: The pandemic has some donors reflecting on the role philanthropy will play in their legacies.

On these pages, we feature the stories of three WSU alumni who have recently made significant estate gifts.


Stephen Imbler
Stephen Imbler is married to Cathy and has two daughters, Sabrina and Sophie.
Stephen Imbler is married to Cathy and has two daughters, Sabrina and Sophie.

One might logically assume that Stephen Imbler, a piano protege in his youth, took his degree in music performance and launched a career as a concert pianist. He did not. As he puts it, “Music was not my career, but it helped make my career.”

After graduating from WSU in 1974, Imbler earned a master’s degree at the University of Texas-Austin, then moved to the San Francisco area. He drew on skills in finance and science (at one time he considered majoring in astrophysics) to begin a more than 30-year career in tech-related businesses.

Imbler continued playing music, however, performing in jazz bands, recording a CD and incorporating music into presentations he made to investors and technology users. His love of adventure travel led to the field of photography: he has even photographed supernovae using the world’s largest telescope at the time. Now retired, he’s in the process of visiting all of the U.S. national parks with a goal of publishing a comprehensive book of photographs.

Imbler has many memories of his time at Wichita State. He formed a close bond to his piano instructor, Paul Reed, who started mentoring Imbler when he was in high school. He recalls being puzzled when his parents uncharacteristically insisted he attend the WSU graduation ceremony. That’s where it was announced he had won the prestigious Swett Award, given to the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average.

“College makes a lot of us who we are. My time at WSU made me who I became.”

Stephen Imbler

During the early 2000s, Imbler established a piano performance scholarship in the WSU School of Music. He has designated that his estate gift, valued at $500,000, be used however the School of Music sees fit.

“I would like to do what I can to make sure it remains a strong program at Wichita State,” he says.


David Ramos
David Ramos displays his WSU class ring. His career in emergency medicine got its start with a nursing degree he earned at Wichita State in 1984.
David Ramos displays his WSU class ring. His career in emergency medicine got its start with a nursing degree he earned at Wichita State in 1984.

David Ramos wears the class ring his parents got for him when he graduated from Wichita State almost every day. “I looked at it as representing everything I was going to do, the cornerstone of whatever I was going to become,” he says.

He went far.

After graduating from WSU in 1984 with a nursing degree, he continued to medical school and then on to a career in emergency medicine with the U.S. Army and, eventually, in Salinas, California, where he lives now.

“Wichita State was the place that did that,” Ramos says. “A lot of stuff sprang from the opportunities I got there.”

Ramos believes the potential for his alma mater to get bigger and better is endless. He points to the vibrant industry and business in the metropolitan area, places that offer abundant learning experiences for students and partnering opportunities for Wichita State.

David Ramos displays his WSU class ring. His career in emergency medicine got its start with a nursing degree he earned at Wichita State in 1984.

He’s also proud of the WSU alumni who have made great achievements, all over the world. “Some of their success is due to Wichita State,” he says. “I’m proud of the talent pool that comes out of WSU and I just want to keep fostering that growth in talent.”

“It’s all about dancing with the one who brung you.”

David Ramos

Ramos grew up in Leavenworth and chose to attend WSU for the scholarships he was offered. He was going to school and working at Wesley Medical Center when William Reals, head of pathology and dean of the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, recognized his potential and encouraged him to become a doctor.

Ramos has endowed a scholarship in WSU’s School of Nursing and his estate gift, valued at $250,000, will augment that endowment. Says Ramos: “When I was in school, I could work during the summer and pay for practically all of my college. There’s no way kids can do that now. I want to help.”


Richard Dodge
Richard Dodge, in his 1954 graduation photo from Wichita State. His estate gift of $1.2 million will support WSU chemistry students, faculty and research.
Richard Dodge, in his 1954 graduation photo from Wichita State. His estate gift of $1.2 million will support WSU chemistry students, faculty and research.

Twenty-one years before his death, Richard Dodge made a decision to leave a portion of his estate to Wichita State University, his alma mater.

Thus began a long relationship with the WSU Foundation. Over the next two decades, seven different members of the Foundation’s development staff remained in contact with Dr. Dodge. Through phone calls, emails and occasional visits, they kept him up to date on his alma mater and helped him navigate the process of establishing a legacy gift that tripled in value.

“Dr. Dodge’s gift is a good example of the importance of long-term relationships between donors and Foundation staff,” says Mike Lamb, a vice president for the WSU Foundation.

Dr. Dodge was a 1954 graduate of Wichita University. He spent most of his career as a chemistry professor at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

When he died in July 2020, his estate gift had grown to $1.2 million. Of that, $100,000 will support a scholarship he established in 2012 at Wichita State. The remainder will provide funds to help the Chemistry Department keep its instrumentation up to date.

GIVING FOR WSU’S FUTURE

The stories featured here represent just a few of the 30 new or increased planned gift commitments made by alumni and friends since July 1, 2020.

Among this group was an estate gift pledge of $3.5 million, made by a Kansas couple who prefer to remain anonymous. Another planned gift, valued at about $370,000, comes from the estate of Wallace H. Champeny, the longtime owner of the Old Oxford Milling Company near Oxford. Champeny passed away last year.

These donors join more than 600 others who have advised us they have made provisions for a gift to benefit WSU in their estate plans.

For information about how you can honor your own WSU experiences with a legacy gift, visit www.wsulegacy.org or contact Mike Lamb, WSU Foundation vice president, at mike.lamb@wichita.edu or 316-978-3804. If your planned gift is already in place, but you have not yet advised us, please let us know so we can assure that your gift is used according to your wishes.

WSU Foundation News Releases

Welcome to our news feed. Here you'll uncover the latest news happenings and announcements. Journalists on a story deadline can connect with our media relations team below. Lori Linenberger, Director of Communications | lori.linenberger@wichita.edu | 316.978.6812