50 Years Ago: Birth of the 'Ahearn Fund'

Through the vision of then athletics director Bebe Lee, plus fundraiser extraordinaire Ernie "Mr. K-State" Barrett, the Ahearn Fund was born in 1964 ... one $25 membership at a time.
Now 50 years later, the Ahearn Fund continues to be the foundation of K-State's athletic department ... one $50 membership at a time.
"It allows us to be pro-active in our fundraising efforts," said Senior Associate Athletics Director Chad Weiberg, who heads the Ahearn Fund. "It's because of the incredible support from our members that we don't have to fundraise in reaction to needs that may arise."
As examples, Weiberg said the latest AstroTurf surface at Bill Snyder Family Stadium came from the Ahearn Fund bank account, as did the new restrooms on the east side of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
"Because of the Ahern Fund, we don't have to do multiple smaller fund-raising campaigns that could distract from our larger capital fundraising efforts," said Weiberg. "Our energies can be for projects like the Basketball Training Facility and the West Stadium Center."
The primary mission of the Ahearn Fund is to provide dollars for scholarships for the 450-plus student-athletes, which totals approximately $6.5 million per school year. But the extreme growth of the program has today allowed for so much more in giving the Wildcats a world-class student-athlete experience.
Ten years ago the Ahearn Fund raised $8 million with roughly 4,500 members, and five years ago it was $10.5 million.
In 2012-13, total giving from 9,500 members to the Ahearn Fund totaled an all-time high of $36.8 million.
While records are somewhat unclear, Weiberg said, "I would say it has been inside the last 20 years that the Ahearn Fund has been able to provide support to K-State Athletics beyond paying for student-athlete scholarships. But through the efforts of Coach (Bill) Snyder and all of our coaches, our programs are winning, which has everyone feeling good about what we're doing. The Ahearn Fund is a way for our fan base to be a part of the success of K-State Athletics."
Today's membership levels start at the $50 Wildcat Club Level and then graduates to the PowerCat Club at $300, the Royal Purple Club at $500, the Victory Club at $1,000, the Scholarship Club at $2,500, and the Champions Club at $5,000.
The crown jewel of the Ahearn Fund is the National Leadership Circle starting at $10,000 for a Bronze membership, $25,000 for Silver, $50,000 for Gold, and $100,000 for Diamond. There are currently 399 members in the National Leadership Circle, which includes 10 at the Diamond level.
"We have members in 49 states," Weiberg said. "We're still looking for that first member to come from the state of Maine."
Today's Ahearn Fund staff includes: Weiberg, Laird Veatch, Mike Clark, Lon Floyd, Alex Kringen, Nate Warren, Eric Buda, Jen Schulte, Susan Shipman, Chelsey Barnes, Rita Bath, plus graduate assistants Alexis Rodriguez and Andrew Gobel.
That collection of 13 in the fund raising family is greatly different than 50 years ago when it was Ernie Barrett, Ernie Barrett and Ernie Barrett.
"For most K-Staters, if not all, Ernie is still the face of the Kansas State athletic department. Especially in the fund raising area, he is 'Mr. K-State,' " said Weiberg. "Everywhere we go we hear stories about Ernie coming to see them and raising money for certain projects. He didn't have e-mail and voice mail. Ernie got in the car and went out to see people.
"What's most impressive is his efforts were in times that weren't as favorable when it comes to wins and losses," said Weiberg. "That's when relationships become more important, and no one had better relationship with K-Staters than Ernie Barrett."
To become an Ahearn Fund member, or for additional information,
call toll free at 888-232-9074 or visit AhearnFund.com.