Press Releases

CPSF announces $1 million gift

Gary McLeod, brother-in-law of Kay McLeod, speaks at the announcement of the gift from her estate at Jefferson Middle School on July 7, 2021.

The Columbia Public Schools Foundation (CPSF) announced today the largest gift in its 25-year history, a donation of $1 million from the estate of former CPS teacher Kathryn “Kay” McLeod.

The $1 million gift will give the Foundation the opportunity to double their efforts in providing grants to teachers and students in the Columbia Public Schools. In addition, the Foundation is currently in the planning stages of establishing scholarships in Kay’s memory. More details on the scholarships will be announced as they are available.

“We are so incredibly appreciative of Kay and her estate for their generosity with this enormous donation,” said Cindy Mustard, president of the CPSF board of directors. “This gift will allow the Foundation to continue its mission of supporting students in a meaningful way that will pay tribute to Kay’s dedication to education.”

Both Kay and her husband, James “Mac” McLeod, were lifelong public educators. They began their careers in Columbia, Mo. at Columbia Public Schools, where Kay taught physical education at both Jefferson Junior and West Junior High School for 24 years, from 1948 to 1972, and he was a successful boys’ basketball coach at Hickman High School, winning a state championship in 1962.

“In her later years, Kathryn quietly supported many students who would not otherwise be able to attend post-secondary institutions, or who would incur unmanageable debt to further their education,” said Kay’s niece Jennifer Kassebaum. “With her generous, unrestricted gift to the Columbia Public Schools Foundation, Kathryn’s legacy of emphasizing the value of education continues.”

Kay was honored by the Foundation’s Hall of Leaders with the Retired Educator Award in 2013. In accepting the honor, she wrote: “To me the most challenging and rewarding job is teaching. All students have potential, and our job was to help it emerge. Teaching in two very diverse educational systems was very eye opening. It seemed my learning process would never end. Working with various educational institutions and programs introduced me to many incredible young people. This I will always treasure. Thanks to the Columbia Public School system for being a big part of this.”

Longtime friend and fellow educator Margaret Niemeyer describes Kay and her husband as being committed to education. “She and her husband were completely devoted to the education of young people,” Niemeyer said. “They were going to do something for the students in Columbia, and when we discussed the philosophy of the Columbia Public Schools Foundation, it clicked for her.”

Read more on Kay McLeod here.

The Columbia Public Schools Foundation is a private foundation established by community volunteers dedicated to the enrichment of public education through community giving. The Foundation has funded projects in every school, allocating more than $1.4 million to enhance education in the Columbia Public Schools. CPSF was founded in 1996 and has supported teachers and students for 25 years.

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