Gene and Patsy Summers are passionate about family, education and Drury University.
They’ve combined those passions through their charitable giving representing three generations of their family with funds at the CFO. They love to support scholarships at Springfield Public Schools, as well as programs at their alma mater, where they had their first date on Gene’s birthday at the end of Patsy’s freshman year.
Gene is semi-retired from a career in insurance and Patsy retired after spending 37 years teaching elementary school in Springfield, mostly at Delaware where she walked to school every day from their home nearby. In retirement, they are as busy as ever with their kids, grandchildren, volunteer activities and rooting for Drury’s sports teams.
Patsy says her late mother, Virginia, instilled in her an enthusiasm and passion for how scholarships could change the lives of young people. Virginia and classmate Ray Aton developed the idea of creating a scholarship on behalf of the Class of 1933 for Central (then Senior) High School, which is still an active scholarship today through the Foundation for Springfield Public Schools.
“She was so proud of what they had done,” Patsy says.
Eventually, she and Gene learned firsthand the power of scholarships, with Gene becoming the first member of his family to go to college.
“Gene and I both went to college on scholarships,” Patsy says. “It was important because all the scholarships together made it possible for us to attend college.”
After years of working hard at their respective careers, they formalized their efforts to give back by establishing the Summers Family Fund in 2007 as a Donor Advised Fund at the CFO.
“This has given us the opportunity as ‘small-potato people’ to pay it forward,” Patsy says. “The CFO has made us feel welcome and accepted our contributions, our strange requests and treated us like someone who has a lot of money.”
Through their donor-advised fund, they’ve been able to support favorite causes such as their church, Schweitzer United Methodist, Drury University, and a Summers Superstar Scholarship selected by the Springfield Retired Teachers Association to support a Parkview High School student.
“We got a chance to meet the students and you’re left with a kind of warm, rosy glow,” Gene says.
“We have met a lot of friends at Drury, people we know well from our fraternity and sorority days. We have both been on the Alumni Council. Drury is just a special place for us.”
When family and friends celebrated Virginia’s 92nd birthday in 2008 with a big party, they began a conversation about honoring her with her own scholarship. That became the Virginia Shean Memorial Scholarship that Patsy, and her brother, Michael Shean, established in their mother’s honor in 2010.
The first award was made this year to Michelle Trantham, a Missouri State University student majoring in psychology/English and music. Michelle happens to be a former student of Patsy’s at Delaware who attended Parkview High School. Virginia Shean spent 25 years teaching at Holland Elementary, which feeds into Parkview.
Patsy and Gene have tried to instill the same ethic of giving back to their own children, Wes and Gena. A third-generation fund, the Anna Grace Summers Fund, was established by Wes, and his wife, Amanda, to honor their daughter who died in infancy.
Gene and Patsy say they hope to continue to grow their family fund so that it can be a legacy for the 4th generation, led by Gena and her husband Eric’s son, Dylan, 16, a junior at Glendale this year.
“We are talking to him about how he can get involved,” Gene says. “We want to involve the whole family.”