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Sunderland Foundation’s grant will support WSU’s outreach to youth in engineering

Advanced Education in General Dentistry Building
Among the projects the Sunderland Foundation has supported at Wichita State is the construction of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry building.

One of the most important constituencies the WSU College of Engineering serves is school-aged children. Year in and year out, the college organizes summer camps, robotic competitions and mentoring programs designed to encourage children to pursue engineering-related careers.

All of these youth oriented activities result in a practical problem: where and how to store the materials, supplies and equipment used for them.

The Sunderland Foundation is helping to provide a solution.

Based in Kansas City, the foundation has awarded the WSU Foundation a grant of $100,000 to equip the new Experiential Engineering building with a large storeroom for College of Engineering programs, many of which target children. The 1,350-square-foot space on the lower level of the building will display the Sunderland Foundation’s name in recognition of the donation.

“It’s fitting for this storeroom to be located in our newest building, which was designed to support activities that unleash a person’s creativity, from kindergarten students to college students,” said College of Engineering Dean Royce Bowden Alicia Sanchez .

Rhatigan Student Center construction
The Sunderland Foundation has made a priority of donating to construction projects, such as the Rhatigan Student Center renovation in 2012.

Here’s a closer look at the Sunderland Foundation and its recent gift:

What is the Sunderland Foundation?
The foundation was established in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, president of the Ash Grove Cement Company for 33 years. “He wanted to invest some of the company’s revenue in supporting communities where Ash Grove operates,” says Kent Sunderland, Lester’s great-grandson. Today the foundation awards about $6 million a year to nonprofit organizations in 10 states.

Who runs the Sunderland Foundation?
Kent Sunderland is president of the foundation’s board of trustees. “Two of my daughters and one of my nephews also serve on the board, making for five generations of philanthropy in the Sunderland family,” says Sunderland, who is vice chairman of Ash Grove Cement Company.

What are the Sunderland Foundation’s areas of interest?
It focuses mostly on higher education, health, youth, museums and housing projects. Almost exclusively, the foundation contributes to capital projects that involve construction or renovation, an important fundraising priority for the WSU Foundation since the state of Kansas provides very limited funds for building projects at its public universities.

Has the Sunderland Foundation given to WSU previously?
In 2012, the foundation contributed $30,000 to the renovation of the Rhatigan Student Center. It donated $50,000 in 2009-10 to the construction of the Advanced Education in General Dentistry building north of the WSU campus on Oliver Street. “We’re very aware of how important higher education is to the future of the communities we serve,” Sunderland says. “It’s also important to the growth of our company, because we’re always looking for good people who have advanced education.”