Foundation announces $1 million gift from alumna Linda Hood Talbott

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Foundation is pleased to announce a $1 million bequest from distinguished alumna and civic leader Linda Hood Talbott, Ph.D., to endow and name the deanship of UMKC’s new Honors College.

UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton thanked Talbott for the gift, which he said will further confirm the new Honors College as an important thread in the fabric of the university.

“The Honors College will help us attract more of the best and brightest students to study at UMKC,” Morton said. “We are a great university because we have students who are smart, engaged and curious. As we transition our existing honors students to the Honors College, and admit an inaugural class of Honors College students, we have yet another reason to believe in a promising future.”

The Honors College will help UMKC recruit high-achieving undergraduates and provide them with a broad-based education, including special honors courses, academic enrichment programs, opportunities for study abroad, leadership development, advising, housing and support services tailored to their needs.

Talbott, who holds three degrees from UMKC, and did post-doctoral study at Harvard and Oxford universities, has long been a generous supporter and volunteer with UMKC.

“I believe the Honors College will benefit the entire university as well as the Kansas City community,” she said.

James C. McKusick, Ph.D., founding dean of the Honors College, said Talbott’s gift has “a very solid meaning and intention behind it.” He called Talbott a trusted advisor and friend of the college.

Talbott said the broad liberal education the Honors College will offer to bright, inquisitive undergraduates is invaluable in an age of rapidly changing technology.

“Whatever the undergraduates’ ultimate career goals, a broad liberal education helps students learn how to think analytically, how to write clearly, how to speak and express themselves persuasively, how to communicate, how to do research to learn what they don’t know, and — best of all for a satisfying life and vocation — how to continually learn and enjoy learning throughout their lives,” Talbott said.

Talbott endowed the first undergraduate scholarship for the Honors College last summer and served on the search committee for the college’s founding dean.

“We are fortunate to have Dr. McKusick as the founding dean with his strong leadership skills, energy, vision and honors college academic experience to lead our UMKC Honors College,” Talbott said.

The University of Missouri System has allocated substantial funding to support the Honors College. In addition to hiring a dean and executive assistant, the college is in the process of searching for a full-time honors advisor and up to six new faculty members, McKusick said. In the next five years, he expects to increase to 600 the students admitted to the Honors College. Currently UMKC’s honors program has about 200 students.

“The $1 million from Dr. Talbott will go to form an endowment that will create income in perpetuity to be used at the discretion of the dean,” McKusick said. “It’s a transformative gift that will create unrestricted opportunity funding for the future needs of the college.”

In the summer of 2016, the Honors College administrative offices will move to space in Cherry Hall on Oak Street. Faculty for the college are based in academic disciplines throughout the university.

Talbott, who was herself an honors student, said she knows having top students is crucial to UMKC’s future. In turn, a strong UMKC is vitally important to the Kansas City community.

Talbott has a lifetime of civic involvement that includes leadership in the community, in the nation, at the university and with the UMKC Foundation. She has endowed five scholarships at the university, many of them with her late husband, Thomas H. Talbott, also a distinguished alumnus.

A past president of the UMKC Women’s Council, Talbott has also endowed Graduate Assistance Funds through the Linda Hood Talbott Award of Excellence, enabling 24 UMKC women graduate students to complete interdisciplinary master’s and doctoral degree programs in diverse fields. Talbott said those women are now in professional careers in Kansas City, across the nation, and around the globe.

“This institution is incredibly lucky to have the generous support of Dr. Talbott,” said Steven P. Norris, president of the UMKC Foundation. “Her philanthropy will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of our students for many years to come.”

Story originally posted in UMATTERS on April 6, 2015.