Bell tower and blue sky


The Builders and the Investors

The Greenwoods and McPhersons ask Ichabods to say “I Will for Washburn!”

From Bell Tower - 2022 
By Brad Porter

Bruce and Theresa McPhersonLaying new foundations. It’s what Bruce McPherson has done for over 50 year as he has constructed some of the region’s most iconic buildings and spaces. As founder of a contracting firm, now named MCP Group, he has had a hand in shaping the horizon of our region. From the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence to the Cyrus Hotel and Evergy Plaza in downtown Topeka and Washburn University’s own Morgan Hall and new law school building, he has certainly left a mark. So as he and his wife Theresa considered the best way to give back, they thought in terms of where their philanthropy could help lay new foundations, expand horizons and create things with lasting impact.

Jaena and Greg GreenwoodInvesting in the future. Greg, bba ’88, and Jaena, ba ’89, Greenwood have spent their lives investing in the future of their community. From Greg’s professional work as a longtime financial analyst and strategy executive for Evergy to Jaena’s work as a speech pathologist and child development specialist, they both think in terms of how things will create impact in the future and how targeted investments today can yield big returns. As they planned their charitable investments, they were looking for ways to not only give, but to be catalysts.

So when the two couples combined forces, it was only natural for them to do something that would have a major impact through an unconventional approach. The result was not only one of the biggest gifts of the year, but one that will shape Washburn for generations to come. It also has a unique concept: They have given $1 million to Washburn University, and are asking 100 people to come forward and help spend it.

The “I Will for Washburn: Greenwood/McPherson Legacy Challenge,” aims to inspire 100 new people to think about what legacies they wish to leave behind and to formalize their estate plans to include gifts to Washburn. For the life of the challenge, anybody who makes a new, documented commitment to include Washburn University in their will or estate plans will be able to direct $10,000 of the Greenwood/McPherson fund anywhere they wish at Washburn.

“Estate planning is one of those things that we all know we need to do, but sometimes it’s a matter of getting over that hump,” said Greg Greenwood. “What we wanted to do was give everybody a little push, an extra incentive to just get it done. For Jaena and I, once we did we felt a huge sense of comfort and relief. But also, a lot of joy, because we started thinking about areas or organizations that gave so much to our lives, and how we could give back to them.”

The response has been swift: already, more than 25 people have stepped forward saying yes to the challenge by drafting or revising their wills or estate plans to include Washburn, then directing the $10,000 in challenge funds to scholarships, endowed funds, capital projects, different schools, departments and program areas, emergency funds and more.

A chart showing the allocations of I Will for Washburn gifts

Part of the fun, Bruce McPherson adds, is seeing all the different ways donors can spend $10,000.

“I think a lot of people might not realize what a broad impact Washburn has and just all the different ways you can support it,” McPherson said. “From the arts to vocational training, nursing, teachers, music, law, athletics, business, Washburn has a little of everything, and is truly a crown jewel of Topeka. I hope this gift jump starts people thinking about that, and as they’re thinking about how to direct an extra $10,000, realizing what a tremendous and broad impact Washburn has on our community and the many, many lives it touches, in so many ways.”

“I arrived at the Washburn foundation in August, and immediately began fielding calls from people interested in taking part of this unique campaign,” said Erin Aldridge, director of gift planning and development for the Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation. “It’s been so much fun being able to offer $10,000 to people to put to any fund or program at Washburn if they include us in their estate plans. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and a perfect marriage of thinking about what you want to leave behind long-term, but also being able to have an immediate impact today.”

“Greg, Jaena, Theresa and Bruce are to be commended for their tremendous vision,” said Interim President Marshall Meek. “It is impossible to overstate just how transformative 100 new estate commitments would be for the future of Washburn.”

“If you’ve ever thought about putting Washburn in your will, now’s the time,” Meek added. “You may never see an opportunity like this again, and it will make a huge difference in the lives of generations upon generations of Ichabods to come.”

Statue on Ichabod Plaza with cloudy sky

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Topeka, KS 66604 Phone: 785.670.4483