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A Family Affair

A Family AffairKercher Family

The legacy of two university professors and their family goes far beyond teaching—they established scholarships and endowments across campus that will impact generations of students.

Connie and Lydia Kercher, together with their daughters Kathryn, Nina, Jane, and Kise and their daughters’ families support the Wheel of Brands scholarship program, the Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena, the Animal Science International Graduate Student Scholarship, scholarships in the College of Education and the College of Health Sciences, and medical studies.

“Our four daughters received a solid educational foundation from Laramie public schools and from the University of Wyoming,” says Lydia. “Kathryn and Nina graduated in medical technology, Jane in zoology/premed, and Kise in business administration (ex). Their education provided them with the skills needed for successful careers.”

She continues, “The opportunity to provide a scholarship to a deserving student is an honor for our family. In a small way, it will help them realize their goals in pursuit of a degree. The University of Wyoming, a wonderful land-grant university, offers excellent programs of study—programs that prepare graduates with the skills necessary for lifelong, satisfying careers.”

Education is important to the Kerchers, and they remember the struggle they had when completing their education. Lydia and Connie were raised in Montana near Bridger. Connie received his bachelor’s degree from Montana State University and his master’s and doctorate from Cornell University. In 1954, he joined the faculty in Animal Production at UW, retiring 42 years later.

Connie received the 1994 Duke Humphrey Award for Distinguished Service in recognition of his years of service to UW. In addition to college teaching awards, he received the UW 1973 Amoco Foundation Outstanding Teacher of Undergraduates. He also served the American Society of Animal Science as western director and national society secretary-treasurer for 3 years, president-elect, president, and past president.

Lydia received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate from UW. She was a faculty member in the College of Education from 1972 to 1994. She launched her teaching career in a split appointment between the college’s Vocational Education Department and the University School (Lab School). She taught business-related courses, as well as exploratory classes at the middle school level. In 2010, she was awarded a Distinguished Former Faculty Award from the College of Education.

In 2004, the entire family won the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Outstanding Donors award.

Creating a Legacy

Daughter Kathryn says, “John and I contributed to three Kercher family scholarships to honor our parents Conrad and Lydia, University of Wyoming professors who helped shape the careers of many students. We also realize the cost of an education today is more expensive than when we were at the universities of Wyoming and Missouri. The scholarships can help defray some of that expense.”

Kathryn explains that both she and her husband are medical technologists, so the medical studies scholarship was exciting, especially due to the fact that many medical technology programs have closed. With a shortage of medical technologists, she and her husband hope that the scholarship will enable students the opportunity to pursue a degree in medical technology.

She adds, “Our education at the universities of Wyoming and Missouri enabled us to have successful careers. Supporting the University of Wyoming means continuing education that our parents felt was important for our futures.”

“As a former employee of the UW Foundation, I realized how important private donations were for funding scholarships, facilities, and special projects,” explains Kise. “When our family decided to set up scholarships specific to the colleges in which our mother and father taught, we all felt this was a wonderful way to give back to the institution that offers excellent education. We are honored to help someone achieve their goals and ambitions at the University of Wyoming. These scholarships will also be a legacy to our parents.”

Scholarship Support Through the Generations

After the children had grown up and were on their own, Connie and Lydia approached them with the idea of funding a “Brand” for the Wheel of Brands scholarship program. According to daughter Nina, the senior Kerchers were at the point in their lives that there was really nothing they needed in the way of gifts for birthdays, Christmas, and other occasions. Once the Brand scholarship was funded, the family decided to support an animal science scholarship.

As children, the family often hosted international graduate students in their home for the holidays since they could not go home. Nina’s memories are not only of sharing our culture and customs but also of learning about other cultures. She felt it helped give the sisters a more global perspective. Therefore, endowing the Kercher Scholarship for International Graduate Students was their way of giving back to the students who so enriched their lives growing up.

Once that was funded, the family decided to continue with the Kercher Scholarship in Adult Education. Nina had always been so proud of her mother for obtaining her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate while raising four wonderful daughters. Lydia set an example for her daughters and continually encouraged them to obtain college degrees.

After endowing that scholarship, Connie and Lydia heard of the Wyoming State Legislature approving the degree program for the clinical laboratory scientist and wanted to take advantage of the matching funds. Kathryn and Nina are both medical technologists (clinical laboratory scientists), Jane is a general surgeon, and Kise worked for over 15 years as a business manager for a urologist. Currently, the family is donating toward this fund—the Kercher Family Scholarship in Medical Studies—to assist the clinical laboratory scientist program and medical students.

Nina is currently the laboratory and radiology supervisor at the Sheridan VA Medical Center, which is having great difficulty finding clinical laboratory scientists to fill vacant positions. There is a nationwide shortage, and since Wyoming is a rural state, it is sometimes hard to entice people to come here. Having a program in the state creates the opportunity for students to experience what Wyoming has to offer and also keep young people employed here.

“I was blessed with my education at UW and remember the tuition was $208 per semester when I went to school,” says Nina. “Although Wyoming has one of the most reasonable costs for education, students today need financial aid to help them meet those costs, which are much higher than what I paid.”

She continues, “We are in the position to help some students make a difference in their education, and it gives me great satisfaction to be a part of that. It is a gift that continues to give through the years both to the student for employment and to our great state for a source of well-educated employees. As a laboratory supervisor, I look forward to those graduates that will want to work in Wyoming on my lab team.”

Believing in the Importance of Education

Ever since daughter Jane was a little girl, the University of Wyoming has been an integral part of her life because both of her parents were professors there. She spent countless hours on campus and has fond memories of many events. She returns often for functions and events.

“Our family decided years ago to donate to scholarship funds at the University of Wyoming in honor and as a legacy to our parents who had such successful careers there, as well as our individual educations,” says Jane.

She continues, “We established and funded scholarships in the College of Agriculture and Education. It has been a joy to see the recipients of those scholarships. As all four daughters worked in the healthcare industry, we agreed that it was only appropriate that the next scholarship fund should be at the College of Health Sciences, specifically premed and laboratory sciences. We look forward to continuing to fund this new scholarship and will look forward to seeing where the education the recipient’s receive takes them in their careers.”

Jane attended UW with a scholarship. She studied Honors Zoology in the premed program. Through the assistance of the WICHE program, she ultimately attended the University of Utah Medical Center.

“The excellent program of studies at the University of Wyoming and the premed program successfully prepared me for not only the coursework in medical school, but I feel I obtained many skills for a successful career,” explains Jane. “I am thankful for my education that has enabled me to have a very fulfilling and successful career.”

Jane practiced medicine in Omaha at a teaching hospital and enjoyed teaching medical students and surgery residents. She has been in practice in south Denver for the last 18 years, where she still enjoys mentoring family practice residents, medical students, and physician’s assistant students for monthly rotations.

“With the cost of higher education continuing to increase, the scholarship can defray expenses to someone who might not be able to afford it,” says Jane. “Being excited about the healthcare industry and all of the new developments in medicine and the laboratory, the opportunity to expand future education of students who choose our beloved University of Wyoming continues the Kercher legacy and our belief in how important education is to our future generations.” 

Photo caption:  From left:  Noah, Matthew and Jane Kercher, Andrea, Mark, Nina Williams, Connie and Lydia Kercher, Kise Kercher and Todd Eads, and Kathryn Kercher-Link and John Link

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