One-Time Gift Spurs Incredible Campaign of Giving

How one man’s final gift will inspire generations
Martina Flordio (2LM), Dean Barbara Glesner Fines, Prof. Julie Cheslik and Helene Slinker (1L) at the School of Law’s Donor Scholar Reception

It was an unusually warm and sunny late January day in Kansas City the day that David Westfall, Jr. (J.D. ’55) died. Those who knew him still remember his pleasant manner and giving spirit. At UMKC, his generosity is his legacy, though few here ever knew him at all.

Westfall died in 2015 at the age of 89. The next year, the UMKC School of Law was contacted about an incredible, unexpected $1.1 million gift left behind in his estate.

“It was a complete surprise,” says Kirk Baughan, who was the School of Law’s director of development at the time. He recalls how little anyone knew about Westfall at the time and says there wasn’t much more to be discovered.

A native son of Kansas City, Westfall’s obituary reveals he was a proud Army veteran, serving a tour of duty in Europe during the second World War. Upon returning home, Westfall spent decades working as an attorney in the Argyle Building at 12th and McGee, later moving his practice to the historic Livestock Exchange Building in Kansas City’s West Bottoms. His personal life was dedicated to his faith in God and service to community, but never once is there mention of a spouse, children or any family at all.

“He seemed to make his estate plan close to the time that he passed away,” says Baughan. “He knew that many of his assets were in his owned real estate. Gifts from his estate supported the UMKC School of Law, the University of Kansas and Saint Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Kansas City.”

Traditionally, a gift of $1 million or more made to a university is the result of a careful cultivation process. A dean and philanthropic impact professional will sit down with a company or individual to discuss detailed plans about the impact they want to make and how they want their money to be used.

Not only was Westfall’s gift a surprise, but it was also completely unrestricted. Law School leadership and trustees knew they wanted to make the most of the windfall but weren’t immediately sure how to do it. Together, they decided on the idea of creating what they called The Westfall Matching Fund in support of law school scholarships, allowing donors to immediately double the impact of their contribution.

“There was a lot of excitement around the arrival of this gift,” says J.R. Hobbs (J.D. ’81), then-president of the Law Foundation. “The trustees agreed that $300,000 would be used immediately to fund student scholarships. The remaining gift would be invested into the Law Foundation’s endowment and used to energize alumni and friends to create scholarship endowments to help students pay their tuition and fees.”

The plan worked. The availability of matching funds was enough to convince donor after donor that their gift would go further through the School of Law.

That was exactly the case for Ann Holmes, who established an endowed scholarship in honor of her father, Marvin Chester Holmes (J.D. ’37), who was once the president of his freshman class at then-Kansas City University.

“I felt it was terribly important to honor my father with a named scholarship,” Holmes recalls. “As far as I know, my father never practiced law, but he used his education in many jobs — including that of a real estate appraiser.”

Holmes admits the School of Law wasn’t necessarily her top charitable priority.

However, after several meaningful conversations with the dean and learning that her gift would be doubled, she was convinced it was the right way to honor her father.

Students were quick to join the excitement, too. The Diverse Student Coalition recently used the funds to grow its endowed scholarship to more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars through fundraising at its annual Diversity Banquet.

The Campaign for Advocates, an effort to raise $1 million for UMKC Law’s advocacy programs, also benefited from the Westfall Matching Fund. Scott Bethune and Kent Emison established lead gifts for the campaign. The Westfall Matching Fund program encouraged several alumni and firms to join the campaign by creating their own named scholarships to support students who show talent and interest in pursuing trial advocacy careers. Those donors include the DanaJames Charitable Foundation; Wagstaff & Cartmell, LLP; The Hyde Family; and the Lathrop GPM Foundation.

Westfall likely made a bigger impact than he could have known. The matching fund was so popular, it only took six years for the entire gift to be matched dollar-for-dollar. The final matching gift creates the Professor Julie M. Cheslik Merit Scholarship Endowment, an annual “full ride” scholarship expected to attract some of the brightest aspiring attorneys to UMKC.

From the beginning, the Law Foundation knew the funds wouldn’t last forever. To honor his investment and ensure his legacy at UMKC, the Foundation renamed the endowed fund that supports academic achievement scholarships for law students the David I. Westfall, Jr. Merit Scholarship Endowment.

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Published: Aug 4, 2023
Posted In: Giving

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