Endowment scholarships come from all types of donors

Kelsey Henninger

Interior design graduates support alma mater

Jim and Tara Wenger, surrounded by their three children Bennett, Brandon and Ella. Jim and Tara set up the first endowed scholarship for the Interior Design department. Daniel Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

One year he gave her a family scrapbook.

Other years he gave her fine jewelry.

But Tara Wenger said the surprising and overwhelming tears flowed on Mother’s Day as she unwrapped a gift that would benefit more than just her.

She unveiled the first endowed scholarship for the Interior Design department — donated in her name.



Donors who have made lifetime gifts and pledges of $100,000 or more receive a parking pass for all areas of campus, invitations to special events, a special service card for the university library and university bookstore that doubles as a VIP calling card whenever a donor needs special assistance on campus.


Named after Kent States ‘s first donor, anyone giving $25,000 through $99,999 will be enrolled.


This honors those donors who have remembered Kent State through planned giving. Depending on the amount these members donate, they can qualify for the William S. Kent Council or The President’s Medallion Society.


The annual donor who contributes $1,000 or more receive an invitation to the Founders Ball, where donors can hear – straight from the students – how their support directly affected them. Once cumulative giving reaches $25,000 the donor is accepted into the William S. Kent Council.

– K.H.

“Jim has always been a good gift giver,” Tara said.

Jim Wenger said the giving is “all Tara” and he wanted to honor her, an interior design alumna, in a way that reflected her personality.

“All of the people she deals with love her,” Jim said. “Her biggest strength is giving to people.”

Jim and Tara met with a glance at McNasty’s (now the BarN’) in downtown Kent 20 years ago.

The Kent graduates have been married 15 years, and they raise their three children in Chagrin Falls.

“What else could I need,” Tara said. “I don’t need a jewelry box full of things.”

Jim said he doesn’t try to give a gift for the sake of giving a gift but prefers to give something with meaning. The gift was a collaboration celebrating Mother’s Day, their 15th anniversary and their 40th birthdays.

The minimum donation for an endowed scholarship is $25,000. An endowment is invested and 5 percent of the total endowment is awarded to students for generations.

The Wenger’s scholarship is valued at $1,250 a year.

“They’re not your typical donor,” said Martha Ring, director of institutional advancement for the College of Architecture and Environmental Design, the home of interior design. “We usually think of someone at the end of their career or someone who has already paid for weddings or colleges.”

Eugene Finn, vice president of institutional advancement, said Kent State has lagged behind other major universities in fund raising.

“Last year, Kent received approximately $25 million in new gifts, and we are planning to raise that to $35 to $40 million within the next five years,” Finn said.

The university has specific staff members assigned to work with individuals, foundations and corporations to generate money for Kent State.

“We are adding key fund raising positions,” Finn said. “These individuals will be tasked with meeting with alumni and friends all over the country to ask them to support KSU.”

One position will be focused on raising money for scholarship funds, Finn said.

Jim Wenger met with Ring, a development officer, to develop the James and Tara Wenger Family Scholarship.

“I learned about the needs for the design school,” Jim said referring to its scholarship fund. “I felt obligated to help.”

Tara is happy to aid design students but said she realizes the financial hardships of college help to shape the person students become.

“This helps take some of the burden off students,” Tara said as she remembered having to scrape by to finish her own design projects.

“Students don’t come to the table today with everything,” Tara said. She added that she hopes this scholarship will prevent students from postponing their college career due to financial situations.

The recipient of the scholarship will be a third-year student with a financial need who is in good academic standing. The winner will also be chosen on a collaborative portfolio.

The Wengers’ decided on a third-year student because they feel the student really wants to be in school and will finish the degree.

The original scholarship was changed from the Tara Wenger Scholarship to The James and Tara Wenger Family Scholarship.

“We wanted our children to have this legacy,” Jim said and Tara agreed. “We try to show our kids the meaning of working with other people.”

The couple feels this scholarship also shows their children the importance of giving back.

“We hope it builds momentum and others will start to give too,” Jim said.

Contact interior design reporter Kelsey Henninger at [email protected].

Ways to give


This Web site, http://www.kent.edu/annualfund, allows donors to give by credit card to any department they designate. It averages six donations per month at approximately $200.


Planned giving is focused on those 40+ years old donating using charitable trust issues to help minimize tax benefits.


This support may be used for scholarship, school or college support, sports or any other program. If these gifts are unrestricted, they will be directed towards the area with the greatest need. Cash gifts allow for a tax deduction for the full amount of the gift in the year it was donated. Securities are gifts of appreciated stock, bonds and mutual funds. Donors can also donate undeveloped land, farms, commercial buildings, a vacation home or their residence to Kent State and receive an immediate income tax deduction and avoidance of capital gain tax.


According to Kent State’s foundations Web site, 20 percent of Kent State employees make annual contributions through payroll deduction.


Establishing an endowment provides generations of students with annual funds. Endowments are usually gifts in memory or the honoring of individuals. A donor can make one large deposit all at once or they can stager payments over a period of three to five years. The minimum requirement to establish an endowed scholarship is $25,000 and it produces a $1,250 scholarship.


Students can directly help each other by donating to this philanthropy. Campaign for Change started in Fall 2007 and will continue each fall. Eight scholarships of $500 were awarded to students and were applied to the students’ Spring 2008 tuition.

– K.H.