Leaving the Hill in the will: Society of 1906 members include WKU in their will

A crowd of tailgaters gathers on South Lawn under the Guthrie Bell Tower before WKU’s Homecoming game against North Texas on Saturday.

Katherine Wade

Most people might keep family members in mind when they make out their wills, but a group of people in the WKU community have kept their alma mater in mind too.

The Society of 1906 is an organization for individuals who decide to include the university in their wills.

Diana Kinslow, WKU’s director of planned giving, said a lot of members choose to donate because they want to honor someone or they have something they would like to see happen at the university.

“It’s kind of a legacy beyond their living years,” she said. “It is really an honor. It helps the university maintain funding and keep going strong and improving.”

Kinslow said that when the Society was founded 12 years ago, there were only 40 members and the total amount of contributions was $13 million. Now there are more than 320 members and the total amount of contributions has reached $89 million.

Bev Furnish, a 1974 alumna and member of the Society, said she has been a donor to WKU since she graduated. She said her whole family has gone to and benefitted from the university. Her grandparents even met at WKU.

The Society of 1906 has an annual breakfast during Homecoming week to recognize the group’s members. Furnish, who attended the breakfast on Friday, said she hadn’t been on campus for 10 years.

“I was shocked at how great everything looks,” she said. “It’s always been a pretty campus, but it is that much better now.”

Bob Owsley attended WKU for three semesters starting in 1950 before being drafted into the service and is also a member of the Society of 1906. He said he was impressed by the renovated buildings on campus.

“It has changed so much,” he said. “I’m very pleased with the way it is developing.”

Owsley said he’s happy to promote his alma mater and help make it stronger.

Furnish, a member of Kappa Delta sorority, said she loved her time at WKU.

“I had a terrific experience,” she said. “I got a good education but also had a lot of fun. There was always something going on.”

Furnish said she particularly enjoyed going to basketball games because they were so exciting. She said they used to line up an hour before the game to get a good seat because there was always a sell-out crowd.

She said she’ll always remember going to the 1971 NCAA Final Four game in Houston.

“A bunch of us girls who lived in the dorm convinced our resident hall adviser to rent a car for us,” she said. “So us seven, our hall adviser and six freshman girls drove nonstop to Houston and had a terrific time.”

Owsley also loved to watch basketball games and practices. But one of his favorite memories from his time at WKU was in March 1951 when the campus was covered in snow.

“We couldn’t stand to see the snow and not be out in it,” he said. “So a friend and I decided to borrow a sled from some girls at West Hall. They said we could have it if we took one of them with us. So we did, and we sled down State Street until after midnight. It was a lot of fun.”

Owsley said when he was back on campus this weekend, he noticed more changes than just the buildings.

“After being away 50-something years, the hills seem a little higher,” he said. “It is a bit harder to race up and down the hills.”