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Sue Guinn Legg

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Pay it forward: Former Jayhawk, ETSU prof donates $370K to KU scholarship funds

June 29th, 2014 9:31 pm by Sue Guinn Legg

Pay it forward: Former Jayhawk, ETSU prof donates $370K to KU scholarship funds

Retired ETSU professor Frank Newby donated $370,000 to the scholarship fund that helped him attend the University of Kansas in the early 1950s. (Sue Guinn Legg/Johnson City Press)

Had it not been for a Summerfield scholarship, Dr. Frank Newby would never have attended the University of Kansas, where he earned the degrees in chemistry that brought him to teach at East Tennessee State College more than 50 years ago.

Born in east Kansas at the height of the Great Depression, Newby said he was destined for a nearby teachers’ college when he landed the undergraduate scholarship from the foundation established by a fellow Kansan, nylon stocking magnate Solon E. Summerfield.

“He was in the hosiery industry in New York. He had some money he contributed to the university and got (the foundation) going. It made it possible for me to go there. So I figured I could give some too,” Newby said this week from his Johnson City home.

He designated his recent gift of more than $370,000 to the independent KU Endowment in nearly equal shares to Summerfield Scholarships, to a scholarship endowment for undergraduate students in physical sciences named in Newby’s honor and to the university’s Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum.

“The museum always impressed me,” he said. “As you go in, there’s a big diorama of North American wildlife with stuffed animals from the arctic to Pan America. Those mounted animals are expensive and they deteriorate and have to be replaced.

“The reason for the undergraduate fund is there are many graduate scholarships. Undergraduates need more.”

And it was Summerfield Scholarships that paved Newby’s way through the university. “I went to KU on a Summerfield Scholarship. If it wasn’t for that, I couldn’t have gone there,” he said.

He especially loved the beauty of the campus and meeting people there from all over the United States and all over the world. “That was a real eye-opener for me,” he said.

One the most famous KU alums of his era was basketball great Wilt Chamberlain, who he knew to be “smart enough but always under tremendous pressure” as the star of the university powerhouse basketball program.

Newby earned his a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the university in 1954 and went on to do his graduate work there on a smaller scholarship from the National Science Foundation and with discounted fees he earned working as teacher’s assistant at KU.

When he moved to Johnson City in 1959 to teach, he continued his postgraduate work at KU, finishing his dissertation here and traveling back to Kansas for exams until he earned his doctorate in 1964.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little called Newby’s work at the university “a model for all of our students to follow.”

“Thanks to Frank’s generosity, more of our students will now receive scholarships that will help them do just that,” she said.

Newby continued teaching chemistry until his retirement from East Tennessee State University in 1993.

His four sons — a medical doctor, a lawyer, a nuclear engineer and a pilot — are all graduates of University School, and three of the four began their higher education at ETSU as well.

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