LAWRENCE — The family of University of Kansas alumnus Donald Slawson has made a $16 million lead gift for construction of a hall to be located in KU’s planned Earth, Energy and Environment Center. Slawson Hall will honor Don Slawson’s longstanding dedication to KU, to higher education and to the oil and gas industry.
A lifelong resident of Wichita, Don Slawson died July 7. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from KU in 1955. At age 24, he founded Slawson Exploration, an oil and gas exploration firm that became one of the most active oil drilling operations in the United States. He later expanded the firm to include residential and commercial real estate development. He served two terms on the National Petroleum Council, to which he respectively was appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. He also served on the boards of directors of Intrust Bank, Cessna Aircraft Co., Kansas Gas and Electric Co., and Security Benefit Life Insurance Co.
“The Slawson family is extremely grateful that the University of Kansas has named the new Slawson Hall to honor Don’s long legacy of furthering the Kansas energy industry,” said one of his sons, Todd Slawson. “The Slawson family has cherished KU for five generations. It is a fitting tribute that Slawson Hall will house and integrate both geology and petroleum engineering curricula, noting Don’s passion for the oil industry and higher education.”
Slawson Hall will be part of the Earth, Energy and Environment Center, located at the corner of Naismith Drive and Jayhawk Boulevard. The center’s spaces will include auditoriums, classrooms, laboratories and multipurpose spaces that foster cross-disciplinary collaboration among researchers in numerous earth science and energy fields, including geology, engineering, geophysics, energy, nanotechnology, energy storage and the environment. A portion of Slawson Hall will be dedicated to technology transfer, providing real-world applications to discoveries and developments made at KU.
“The generosity of Don and his family has made it possible for us to move forward on this landmark project that advances our efforts to identify new and sustainable sources of energy for our world,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “With Don's passing, KU and Kansas have lost a true advocate for higher education, but his legacy will live on and benefit countless others through Slawson Hall. On behalf of the university, I offer my sincere condolences to Judy, their children and all who are grieving Don's death.”
In his support of higher education, Slawson served two terms on the Kansas Board of Regents and was chair from 1987 to 1993. Slawson was president of the KU Alumni Association and of KU’s Athletic Board. He and his wife, Judy, met at KU and raised three sons, including two KU alumni — Steve Slawson, Craig Slawson, ’80, geology; and Todd Slawson, ’84, petroleum engineering.
The gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s $1.2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.
The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.