Leading by Example  

UMKC alumnus Harold Gersh led a simple life that led to an impressive legacy.


September 23, 2016

If there were a movie version of Harold Gersh’s life, Tom Hanks would play the lead. Gersh led a life that looked small on the outside, but was grand in design and impact.  Harold received both his undergraduate degree in Economics and his Masters in Counseling from UMKC. He chafed at having to take a music appreciation course as a pre-requisite for his degree, but discovered a love of classical music that developed into a lifelong passion. 

Following ten years teaching at Paseo Academy, he was a counselor at Shawnee Mission East for 28 years. An avid traveler, Gersh reported in the East yearbook that he had been to every country outside the Iron Curtain.  If this is an exaggeration, it is easy to forgive a man who lived so simply and carefully for trying to inspire his students.

Harold Gersh credited UMKC with changing his life.  He wanted to give the gift of that opportunity to students for generations to come.  By living frugally, Harold was able to establish an endowment initially valued at over $500,000 for scholarships in secondary education.  He hopes the recipients will have the foresight to plan on giving back as well.  Because Harold knew, one class can make a difference, one person can make a difference, one gift can make a difference.