Planned gift an investment in student success, innovation

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James Clarke, BA '97, with his wife, Jennifer Svetlecic, at the Bow Tie Ball on Nov. 19, 2011.

James Clarke considers his decision to include Washburn University in his estate plan as more than an investment in student success.

By designating his planned gift to his endowed scholarship fund, which supports Washburn students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, Clarke hopes his investment also will help drive innovation, create economic growth and ultimately improve lives.

Clarke's gift is designed to help create more graduates who are prepared to fill in-demand jobs in scientific and technical fields.

"I had a wonderful experience at Washburn, especially in the political science and history departments. Professors like David Freeman, Robert Gustavson and Gunnar Alksnis really pushed me and taught me to think more critically. As much as I learned from them, I think the next great leaps will come from science and math, and I want to play a small part in helping prepare students to solve big problems," he said.

Clarke graduated from Washburn with a bachelor of arts in political science and later earned a master of business administration from the University of Kansas in 2004. The strong link between education and a thriving economy came into focus during his time as director of private investments at Kauffman Foundation.

"Mr. Kauffman was 50 years ahead of his time understanding the link between education, entrepreneurship and ultimately a vibrant economy and functioning democracy. I can't think of a better model to emulate."

Now Clarke is a partner at Fiduciary Research and Consulting LLC, an outsourced investment manager for large corporate pension plans, and a trustee of the Washburn University Foundation. He also serves on the boards of two startups, a technology company and a drug reformulation venture.

Clarke, 38, decided to prepare his estate plan early in life. He associates that decision with the birth of his son.

"Having kids makes you plan ahead and really consider what is important to you. For me, Washburn is high on that list," he said.

Clarke made his first gift to Washburn a year after graduating, which he said kept him connected to the University.

"My first gift to Washburn established my link from life on campus to life after campus," he said. "Because of that, I feel like I never completely left campus."

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