Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn spent their professional careers as educators and the couple decided to give much of their estate back to their college, Arkansas State University. The couple’s estate will donate $3.69 million to the ASU Foundation Inc., the largest such gift in the institution’s history.
“Generations of A-State students will enjoy enriched lives because of the educational opportunities and initiatives Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn’s generosity is making possible,” ASU-Jonesboro Chancellor Kelly Damphousse said. “We are indeed very grateful for their gift and their foresight.”
Based on the Vaughns’ record of giving during their lives and their interest in various programs at Arkansas State, their gift will be allocated for endowed professorships, a scholarship for future educators, art gallery support, financial assistance to deserving students and student life enhancement. Following is a list of how the gift will be used.
• A gift of $250,000 to establish an endowed professorship in the College of Education & Behavioral Science, to be awarded annually to an outstanding faculty member. The first recipient is Dr. John D. Hall, professor of psychology and counseling.
• A gift of $250,000 to establish an endowed professorship in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, to be awarded annually to an outstanding faculty member. The first recipient is Dr. Argelia Lorence, professor of metabolic engineering.
• A gift of $250,000 to establish an endowed professorship in the College of Liberal Arts and Communication, to be awarded annually to an outstanding faculty member. The first recipient is Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch, professor of history.
• A gift of $175,000 to establish the Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn Endowed Scholarship in the College of Education and Behavioral Science for an aspiring educator.
• Creation of the Vaughn Gallery in the Bradbury Art Museum with a gift of $175,000, helping leverage a match from the Bradbury family to fully fund the Bradbury Art Museum endowment.
• A gift of $2 million to establish the Vaughn Excellence Fund for special university initiatives.
• The Vaughn Gap Fund of $400,000 will generate income to support scholarships for promising students who receive some financial aid but who still have major need.
• Naming of the public reception area adjacent to the Reng Student Union third-floor auditorium as the Vaughn Student Lounge. The ASU Board of Trustees voted Friday to name the lounge after the couple.
The couple was inducted in1999 into the Legacy Society, for those who have made planned gifts to ASU, and they left the majority of their estate to the university. They lived at Delaplaine for many years before moving to Jonesboro. He died in 2013; she in 2015.
The couple enthusiastically participated in the cultural and civic activities in the region. Wanda LeeVaughn, who was particularly interested in theater, was joined by her husband to write, direct and produce historical dramas, such as “The Crowley’s Ridge Story,” “Mother of Counties” and “The Heritage Trail,” in Greene and Lawrence counties.
Jim Vaughn, a Navy veteran and broadcaster early in his career, served on the Arkansas Educational Television Commission and was influential in introducing the high school Quiz Bowl competition. He also wrote educational books, computer programs and award-winning fiction about his boyhood home in Kentucky.
Their involvement with ASU also included her service on the board of the ASU Foundation Inc., and his membership in the Chancellor’s Cabinet and the ASU Museum Advisory Council. They also established the Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn Athletic Endowment for student-athletes.
“Jim and Wanda Lee would be very humbled, yet proud, of the impact that their endowment will have for the Arkansas State University Foundation, the current and future students, and professors of Arkansas State University,” said Steve May, trustee for the Vaughn estate. “Both had a history as educators, so they knew very well that resources do make a difference in facilitating education. They were both very philanthropic and kind people, and this gift will hopefully inspire others to follow their lead.”