By Mark Janssen
Rand and Patti Berney don't even blink in explaining their gifting Kansas State University $5 million to establish the Berney Family Capital Project Fund.
"You need to know that you can trust your leaders," said Rand, who is senior vice president of corporate shared services at ConocoPhillips in Bartlesville, Okla. "You have to have the confidence to know where they are taking you."
Patti echoed her husband's thought by saying, "The Kansas State mood is so positive with the leadership we have in place. They are telling us exactly what the direction is, and not just saying that the money will be put to good use. They have us excited in that we know the exact direction that the leadership is taking us."
The Berney's gift will be divided between the K-State Welcome Center in Memorial Stadium, and the initial construction of the K-State Basketball Training Facility to the east of Bramlage Coliseum.
"Kirk has been absolutely clear on his vision and has articulated it so well," said Rand. "Patti and I wanted to give to K-State and what helped us was the fact that Kirk said that his absolute top two capital priorities were the welcome center and basketball training facility. You can't get much clearer than that."
Patti added, "Those were two areas meaningful to us. K-State sports and then the welcome center that embraces each K-State family, which is what it's designed to do."
In recognition of the gift, K-State will name the field adjacent to the Welcome Center at Memorial Stadium as the Berney Family Field. In addition, the lobby of the training facility will carry the name of the Berney Family Reception Center.
With both efforts, Rand said, "Facilities, academically and athletically, do make a difference. It's like a first impression. When we have a recruit visit our campus they have a 24-hour period to make their decision on K-State. We want all of our students to see that we are committed to excellence not only in the classroom, but athletically as well. To be a lasting part of that success is both humbling and satisfying."
Patti added, "We have had such good recruits recently, and we want to continue to show future recruits the commitment and excellence of our university, and our desire to retain our excellent coaching staffs."
Rand, a native of Phillipsburg, Kan., is a 1977 graduate of K-State where he received a bachelor's degree in accounting, and later his MBA from Oklahoma State in 1982.
Patti spent her early years in Derby, Kan., before her family moved to Phillipsburg. She attended Fort Hays State University, but as she says, "I spent many weekends in Manhattan and on the K-State campus."
"Patti and I spent a lot of hours, if not days, lined up outside of Ahearn Field House so we could get the best seats for basketball games," Rand reflected.
And, the couple was just as loyal to the Wildcat football program that wasn't nearly as successful.
"Sometimes people made fun of us, but it didn't matter how far ahead or how far behind we were. We were into every one of those games," said Rand, who is a member of the K-State College of Business Administration's Business Leaders Hall of Fame, and is a past Distinguished Business Leader of the Year. "Success or failure has not influenced our loyalty and how we follow our teams."
Smiling, Rand reflected, "In a few of those football games we were late arriving and the game was well out of hand, and it was still the first quarter. But we were always one of the last to leave no matter what the score was. K-State sports have always meant a lot to us."
Few can match the loyalty of the Berney family. They are members of the KSU Foundation's Presidents Club and have backed the school with the ConocoPhillips SPIRIT Scholars program.
Recent recipients of those scholarships have been Clent Stewart and Chris Merriewether of the K-State basketball team, who are both in the organization's information technology group in Bartlesville.
Along with viable components of ConocoPhillips, Rand said that Stewart was helping with the Bartlesville High School basketball team, and has been a volunteer coach of the West Side Community Center which is made up of underprivileged kids.
Also a part of the ConocoPhillips family in Houston, Texas, are former Wildcat student-athletes in Aaron Lockett (marketing financial analyst) from the KSU football team, and Quintin Buchanan (financial services group) from the Wildcat basketball team. Buchanan's wife, Natasha, a former Classy Cat, is also with the company.
On the state of the athletic department, Rand added, "The quality of coaches we have are deserving of these new facilities. These coaches genuinely have an interest in our student-athletes. It's not only what they can do for the coaches on the field or court, but they care beyond their respective arenas by their teaching of life lessons."