UK grad's outright and estate gifts benefit generations of students

A few years ago, Patricia Wykstra Johnson reached a defining moment in her life. She confides, “There came a time when I stopped to consider what had been important to me, and what had made a difference in my life. Then I began thinking how I could make sure the same opportunities I had been given would be available for new generations.”

This led Patricia to contact the Office of Gift and Estate Planning at the University of Kentucky and begin exploring options that would enable her to fulfill this philanthropic goal at her alma mater.

Patricia was born in New York and moved to Kentucky with her parents in 1957. Her father worked for IBM and was transferred to Lexington to open the electric typewriter plant. Patricia attended Cassidy Elementary School, Morton Middle School and graduated from Henry Clay High School in 1965. She chose to attend the University of Kentucky and was accepted into the honors program.

Patricia earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the UK College of Arts and Sciences in 1968, and a master’s degree from the College of Education in counseling in 1970. After graduation, she began a successful career in education in Kentucky and North Carolina, spending about half of her working life in educational administration, and the other half in direct service.

She held positions as a junior high school math teacher, elementary school counselor, high school counselor, counseling central office director, student services director for a school system, and assistant principal. She has also served a North Carolina community college as a counselor, director of counseling, and dean of students. After 34 years of service, she retired at the age of 55.

Patricia says that her education at UK prepared her for her career. To help other students follow in her footsteps, in 2011 she began making outright gifts to endow a scholarship fund for undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Sciences. Since that time, seven students have received scholarship awards. More recently, Patricia has decided that through her estate plan, she will endow a fund to provide stipends for M.S. and Ph.D. degree candidates in the counseling psychology program in the College of Education. She explains, “I’m establishing these two endowments because of my B.S. and M.A. degrees.”

Beginning these endowed funds to assist students was an easy decision for Patricia to make. In her career in student services, she supervised both financial aid and admissions offices. And when she was a member of the UK Alumni Association Board of Directors for two consecutive terms, she served on the scholarship committee and became very aware of the need for more scholarships at the University.

“It just made sense to create a scholarship fund,” she says. “And the most enjoyable aspect about endowing a scholarship is getting to know the recipients. It’s very meaningful to actually meet the students and know that I’m helping them achieve their education and career goals. I’m glad that my philanthropy at UK can directly benefit students who need assistance in obtaining their degrees.”

Patricia worked with Ford Stanley ’91 in UK’s Gift and Estate Planning Office to accomplish her philanthropy in a tax-wise manner. Ford observes, “By establishing a scholarship fund with outright gifts, Patricia has the pleasure of seeing her philanthropy at work in student after student. And by increasing the size of that scholarship and starting another fund for grad students through her estate, she will have a major influence on future generations of students at her alma mater.”

Patricia is also establishing two other endowments through her estate to strengthen the areas of her study at the University. One fund will provide support for the mathematics department in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the other will provide support for the Lewis Honors College.

Mike Richey ’73 ’79, UK Vice President of Philanthropy, notes, “President Eli Capilouto and our University family are very grateful to Patricia for her generosity and her thoughtful philanthropy. Through her outright giving and her carefully planned bequests, she is making a very significant gift to every area of the University which touched her life. Leaving a bequest to the University of Kentucky is a simple thing to do, but it can have a profound impact upon the lives of countless students and those they will serve.