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Staying Involved

Becoming major donors, one gift or trip at a time

John, ba ’76, and Renee Arnett

(John, ba ’76, and Renee Arnett. Photo by Doug Stremel)

From Bell Tower - 2021
By Annie Flachsbarth

When John Arnett, ba ’76, retired, he looked back on his career and looked ahead to his future – and Washburn University was a big part of both.

After graduating with a political science degree, Arnett took a job in paramedicine, a relatively new field at the time. The role led to a 35-year career, 26 of which were served as an emergency medical services battalion chief for Johnson County Kansas Med-Act.

“I supervised and was active in personnel development, team management and department planning, evaluation of paramedics and the quality assurance of the work that they did,” Arnett said. “The political aspects of what I learned at Washburn, and how all of the components of government work together, helped me appreciate public responsibility.”

After retiring, he and his wife, Renee, decided it was important to give back to ensure other students are able to find the same kind of success. They did so through consistent annual gifts to Washburn.

“We’re just regular people – we don’t think of ourselves as major donors,” John said. But over time, their steady philanthropy has made them exactly that. This year, they officially joined the Lincoln Society, the inner circle of Washburn supporters who have lifetime contributions of $50,000 or more. They also joined the Whiting Society, which recognizes donors who have included Washburn in their estate plans, when they decided this spring to create a legacy plan that will endow their scholarship in political science.

Though not a Washburn graduate, Renee Arnett knows how important such commitments can be. As the former professor and director of career development at Johnson County Community College, she is acutely aware of the importance of education and the impact their gifts will have on students.

“A college education helps you build skills, and those skills are transferrable wherever you go,” she said. “John advanced in his career because of the skills he acquired from Washburn, so we want to provide that opportunity to the next generation of students.”

As retirees, the Arnetts’ level of engagement with Washburn has only continued to grow. They stay connected by taking advantage of opportunities like Wake up with Washburn, football games, Day at the K and more. Their favorite activities by far are the alumni trips and cruises – to date, the Arnetts have travelled abroad with Washburn's Alumni Association seven times and counting.

“There are so many opportunities for alumni to get engaged,” Renee said. “Just like a student, alums want to feel involved. Washburn does that well.”

“John and Renee are two of the nicest people you will ever meet. It is always fun having them onboard trips; they go out of their way to meet other travelers and make new friends,” said Alumni Association Director Susie Hoffmann, bba ’87. “A person’s relationship with their alma mater is a lot like anything else – you get out of it what you put in it. And in the Arnetts’ case, they put in a lot.”

The Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center

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