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A Perfect Fit

May 14, 2021
man and woman at a banquet
Photo courtesy of Don and Judy Legerski

Longtime UW supporters Judy and Don Legerski established an endowment to support UW graduate students doing biodiversity research in Wyoming’s national parks. 

By Tamara Linse 

Wyoming is known for its open spaces and landscapes, its national parks and its abundant natural resources. One couple would like to see the University of Wyoming take full advantage of these benefits, and they are supporting these efforts with an endowment.

Don and Judy Legerski of Lander established the Don and Judy Legerski: UW Teton Graduate Scholars in Biodiversity, which supports graduate students doing biodiversity research on the UW Grand Teton Campus at AMK Ranch near Jackson Lake.

“We’re huge fans of the national parks and longtime supporters of the university, and it seemed like a great opportunity to meld those two passions,” Judy says. “It’s taking advantage of what we have here at Wyoming, looking beyond the Laramie campus.

“We have confidence that the money will be put to good use,” Judy adds. “We’re fortunate in Wyoming to have one university, which we can wholeheartedly support.”

The UW Grand Teton Campus at AMK Ranch is the perfect place to base biodiversity research. Its mission is to promote the understanding of Wyoming’s wonders and their connections to the world by inspiring discoveries and learning opportunities that cross boundaries and foster cooperation, understanding and discourse.

The UW-National Park Service Research Center was formed and moved to the AMK Ranch in 1977. It serves as a research facility for social, physical and biological sciences and promotes excellence in research by furnishing housing, laboratory space, transportation, equipment and financial support for researchers, including UW graduate students.

“We love UW, our national parks and the amazing Wyoming landscapes,” say the Legerskis. “This gift was a perfect fit. We hope this grant will encourage the university to expand its involvement and commitment to the AMK Ranch in Grand Teton National Park and to support students through the advancement of scholarly research in biodiversity.”

Don and Judy grew up in Rock Springs and graduated from high school there. Both of their fathers attended UW. Judy’s father, general surgeon Paul R. Yedinak, M.D., was honored as the 1997 UW Outstanding Alumni of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Don worked his way through Western Wyoming Community College and UW and earned degrees in accounting and law. Don was honored in October 2019

as a 50-year practicing member of the Wyoming bar.

Judy, who is chairman and CEO of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, attended Marquette University to study English. She transferred to UW when she and Don became engaged.

Following their graduations, they lived in Casper for a year before moving to Lander. Both Don and Judy were elected to represent Fremont County alumni on the board of the UW Alumni Association. The UW tradition of education continues: Two of their three children and one granddaughter are UW graduates. Additionally, three grandchildren are currently pursuing degrees at UW.

The Legerskis have supported areas across campus, including athletics, law, business, engineering, health sciences and alumni scholarships.

“We’re not great planners,” Judy says. “It just sort of happened—there was never a point where we sat down and figured out how to support the university. We’ve been fortunate and have been able to contribute, and we’re pleased to do it. It sort of depends on what captures our imagination at the time.”

The Legerskis encourage others to give to UW. “Follow your heart and your interests,” Judy says. “If you are able to share, you certainly should do it. Support for students and education shows a faith in the future. Obviously, education

is very important in this world, and perhaps it’s all that remains between us and chaos.”

“We hope that potential donors would consider establishing an endowment,” Don says. “Endowment money lasts into perpetuity—it doesn’t just get spent and disappear.”

For Judy and Don, it’s an investment in the future of our students, our state and our university— a nudge in the right direction. They hope that the university will take the opportunity to do all that it is capable of doing—that it doesn’t get bogged down in doing things as they always did.

Don and Judy Legerski believe that UW can make a difference, and they say, “That’s what really counts in this life.”

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