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Pearson, Gertrude

Sellards Pearson
Year Inducted: 
Gertrude Pearson
  • Major benefactress of the University of Kansas
  • 1958: Received KU’s Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the University
  • Pioneered the concept of air conditioning in residence halls
  • Responsible for Pearson and GSP residence halls and Pearson, Sellards, and Grace Pearson scholarship halls
  • Contributed more than $700,000 to KU Housing in total
  • Funded one of largest bells in the Campanile

Gertrude Sellards Pearson, 1880-1968, was a huge philanthropist for the University of Kansas, particularly the Housing Department.  A KU graduate from the Class of 1901, it was she who we can thank for pioneering the concept of air conditioning in residence halls.  She was honored with KU’s Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the University, in 1958.

In 1956, she and her husband gave $175,000 to build a new 412-man dormitory, to become Pearson Hall.  This dormitory more than doubled the capacity for KU men’s housing.  They had previously contributed $201,000 to combine with money from the Watkins estate to build Pearson and Sellards Scholarship halls.  They also provided the money to build Grace Pearson Scholarship Hall and Gertrude Sellards Pearson (GSP) Residence Hall.  In total, they contributed more than $700,000 to KU Housing.  Their efforts did not only help to complete the halls but also to initiate their building; she often funded the down payments for the halls.  Her gifts made on-campus housing possible for over 1,000 KU students.  Additionally, these contributions created a spark which led to the current system of financing student housing construction for all six state colleges and universities.

Gertrude travelled widely in the United States and abroad, regularly purchasing paintings and other art objects to add to the halls she had funded.  She also bought one of the largest bells which rings in the Campanile. 

Gertrude passed away in 1968 at the age of 87.  She missed only a very few KU commencement ceremonies until her health began to fail towards the end of her life.

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