LAWRENCE — University of Kansas alumnus Roger Werholtz and his wife, Shirley, have made a $50,000 gift commitment to benefit KU’s School of Social Welfare. Their gift will include $30,000 to establish an endowed scholarship for students majoring in social welfare and $20,000 in unrestricted support for the school. The scholarship will have a preference for students who have an interest in corrections.
“It’s good to have the ability to make the gift,” said Roger Werholtz. “It seems like a small thing in comparison to what I got out of attending KU’s School of Social Welfare.”
Roger Werholtz earned a master’s degree in social welfare from KU in 1978 after earning his undergraduate degree from Washburn University in 1971. While attending Washburn, he worked at the Menninger Foundation and became interested in mental health, and ultimately, in seeking a graduate degree in social welfare. Werholtz attended KU on a graduate stipend for employees of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, which provided advanced education in social work in exchange for a commitment to work for the agency for two years after graduation.
Werholtz described his experience at KU as transformative. “I had so many opportunities as a result of going to KU’s School of Social Welfare that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” he said. “It opened doors for me that I probably wouldn’t even have tried to find — let alone open.”
These doors ultimately would take Werholtz through a long and successful career with the Kansas Department of Corrections. In 2002, Kansas Gov. Bill Graves named him acting secretary of the Department of Corrections, a position Werholtz held through two more governors — Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. He retired in 2010 after working 28 years for the department.
Mary Ellen Kondrat, dean of the School of Social Welfare, expressed appreciation for the gift. “As an alumnus of our school, Roger Werholtz is a wonderful example of the kind of leadership that our students are trained to provide in our communities,” said Kondrat. “Among his other achievements, in 2009 the national Association of State Correctional Administrators selected him as outstanding Director of Corrections. We are truly grateful for his leadership and for this gift, which will provide much-needed scholarship assistance for our students, and funds to help us respond in a timely way to new opportunities and challenges.”
The gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s $1.2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above is managed by KU Endowment. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU.