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Why We Give: Tom and Sharon Van Dyke

Tom and Sharon Van Dyke really valued the high-quality education they received at KU and want to ensure that current and future students can have the same type of exceptional experience, so it is only fitting that they would want to contribute to the University Honors Program.

The Van Dykes have designated the Honors Program as a beneficiary of an estate gift, and they also plan to contribute every year until that time, providing Honors students with funds to travel and explore opportunities away from campus.

“It’s more fun to do things while you’re still alive and meet the people and see the fruits of what you give,” Tom says. “I’m a big fan of foreign travel – I was an exchange student in Switzerland in high school – so I look forward to meeting some of these students and hearing about their experience.”

Tom, who majored in economics at KU and attended the University of Michigan Law School, has recently transitioned to senior counsel at the law firm Bryan Cave in Kansas City, where he has worked since 1991 and was previously a partner. He spent most of his career specializing in securities law – helping companies such as Graves Truck and Cerner launch initial public offerings. Now, he works mostly with mergers and acquisitions, particularly with private equity firms.

“Senior counsel is a category we use for those who still want to enjoy practicing law but are slowing down a bit,” he says. “I see myself as showing young lawyers there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sharon, who received an education degree from KU, worked as a speech therapist.

Tom says that he and Sharon became interested in giving to the Honors Program when he found out that former faculty member Frances Heller and former executive vice chancellor Deanell Tacha had been actively involved with Honors while they were at KU.

Tom says that Professor Heller was one of his favorite professors, who he had for Honors Western Civilization, and former Judge Tacha worked with Tom at a law firm when she was in law school.

“I’m convinced the Honors Program is a good recruiting tool for KU,” he says. “Outstanding students want to go to a school where it’s more than just sitting in a classroom every day. No matter what somebody is majoring in or will do professionally, you should do something that broadens your perspective. I like the concept of the Honors Program because it does that.”

He and Sharon also like the research opportunities that the Honors Program encourages.

“A really important aspect of education and acquiring knowledge is doing research and investigating things,” he says. “That, and traveling abroad, can make you have a whole different perspective.”

By being involved with the Honors Program now, the Van Dykes hope they will motivate today’s students to pay it forward sometime down the road.

“When people get this kind of aid, direct assistance from a real person, it encourages them to want to help other students when they can afford to,” he says.

KU Today
Course offerings are “among the most comprehensive in the nation,” according to “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs”
98% of University Honors Program graduates are employed or accepted to graduate school within six months of graduation
40% of students in the University Honors Program conduct research before graduation
9 to 1: Average ratio of KU honors students to faculty advisors
1 of only 7 programs nationwide to receive a top rating from “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs” in 2014
60% of University Honors Program students study abroad
KU honors students select their advisors from top-ranked KU faculty