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Gift creates History’s dept. first endowed chair

PULLMAN —  A $3 million gift from John W. (Jack) and Janet M. Creighton will create the Corps of Discovery Endowed Chair in the Department of History at Washington State University. Interest from the gift will also fund symposia, travel and graduate study related to the history of the American West.

“By thoughtfully establishing the Corps of Discovery Endowed Chair, the Creightons are making a major and lasting impact on an important field of study at WSU,” said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins.

“We wanted to help create something that can be easily identified with Washington State University,” said Janet, “something that was uniquely ‘west.’”

According to their written agreement with the university, the name “Corps of Discovery Chair” was selected by the Creightons to denote cutting-edge scholarly research, pushing forward the horizon of learning and adding to the existing body of knowledge. The agreement states, “Meriwether Lewis and William Clark did just that at the behest of Thomas Jefferson. They opened the eyes of the young republic to the resources and wonders of the American West. The name also complements the geographic location of Washington State University’s campuses and the university’s role as a premier research institution.”

“We want to make the point to others that giving can be structured to fit any financial circumstance,” said Janet Creighton. “People might look at the amount of our endowment and say, ‘I could never do that,’ but the point is, almost everyone is capable of doing something.”

“We also want to motivate others who have a capacity similar to ours, or greater, to consider a transformational gift,” said Jack Creighton.

“Transformational gifts are those which are sizable and strategic enough to have a profound and lasting impact,” said Erich Lear, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “The Corps of Discovery Chair is certainly in that category for the history department.”

“The Corps of Discovery Chair should be transformational directly in the field of American West history because WSU’s history department has had strengths in that area for several decades,” said John E. Kicza, interim chair of the Department of History. “This chair will, without doubt, elevate substantially the department’s reputation in the academic community and our ability to attract quality faculty and graduate students.”

The Creightons had talked about creating a gift for Washington State University in their will, but a chance conversation with a colleague gave Jack Creighton a new perspective. “He sold me on the benefits of ‘warm-hand giving,’” said Jack Creighton, “making a donation while you are still around to see how the money is used to change lives.”

Cases that aptly make this point, say the Creightons, are the recipients of the estimated $1 million the Creightons have given to WSU to fund Native American scholarships. “We know that money is making a difference,” said Janet Creighton. “We get letters from the undergraduate and graduate students who receive the scholarships, and in many cases, after graduation, they are returning to their tribes and helping others. It’s a great feeling to give back. It really is very rewarding to see what is accomplished with the money you give.”

“Few people have advanced our university more than Jack and Janet,” said Rawlins. “Through their unwavering commitment and generosity as donors and volunteers, they have distinguished themselves as leaders, creating a lasting legacy of excellence for the students and faculty at Washington State University.”

The Creightons and their three adult children, two of whom are Washington State alumni, are a degree-oriented family. In all, the family has earned 12 degrees. Jack and Janet Creighton have six degrees between them, the most recent being Janet Creighton’s Ph.D. in history from Washington State University in December 2005.

A search committee at WSU has already placed ads and plans to fill the Corps of Discovery Endowed Chair position by the fall semester of 2007.

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