SE: National Leadership Circle hits 500 Members, has Transformed Student-Athlete Experience

The National Leadership Circle started as a way to recognize K-State Athletics’ top donors. What it transformed into was a vital piece in providing a World-Class Student-Athlete Experience

The NLC began in 2009 with 195 members who contributed at least $10,000 annually to the Ahearn Fund for K-State Athletics. This summer, the membership total hit 500. 

“It’s special because I was here when we weren’t even thinking about 500, so every milestone you hit along the way is good. To see the growth of it and what it’s done for K-State Athletics is tremendous,” said Associate Athletics Director for Development Andrew Hamor. “You don’t have to look very far to see the impact they’ve had. It’s very special.”

The 500 NLC members are spread out across 21 different states and their contributions accounted for $10.42 million of the record-setting $18.1 million (58 percent) raised by the Ahearn Fund in fiscal year 2016. 

“It’s really an important part of what we do. Those dollars that are contributed to the Ahearn Fund is really a mark of excellence,” K-State Director of Athletics John Currie said of the NLC. “You’re talking about people that are distributed around the country in 21 different states who are choosing to make K-State one of their philanthropic priorities. That’s very special.”

Since 2009, NLC members have been an integral part of making the $210 million in athletic facility enhancements at K-State possible.  Fifty-seven percent of NLC members have pledged more than $102 million in capital gifts. Capital gifts are above and beyond annual gifts and are not counted toward their NLC membership. These donations have helped fund the Ice Family Basketball Center, Mike Goss Tennis Stadium, Intercollegiate Rowing Center, West Stadium Center and Vanier Family Football Complex. 

“The facility upgrades are phenomenal. They absolutely are. It’s wonderful that our athletes have those kind of facilities,” said Steve Baccus, a fourth-generation farmer who became the 500th NLC member this summer with his wife Pat. “I’m very much appreciative of all the work that’s been done with the athletics facilities, and I fully understand that a successful athletics program is the window to the world for a university.” 

The NLC members’ contributions allow for more than facility upgrades, too. They also help fund student-athlete scholarships, increase academic support and enhance sports medicine practices among other services. 

“I love the school. I had a great experience at K-State,” said Brad Brenneman, a K-State graduate and an NLC member who lives in Frisco, Texas. “Our athletics is what helps put K-State nationally on the map, and anything I can do to help K-State’s reputation be advanced nationally is a positive thing.”

Additionally, 40 percent of NLC’s members gave to the Ahearn Excellence Campaign in 2015-2016.  These philanthropic gifts are above and beyond priority seating gifts to help support the greatest needs of K-State student-athletes such as full cost-of-attendance scholarships, state-of-the-art training facilities and performance table meal plans. Of the $2.1 million gifted to Ahearn Excellence in FY 2016, $1.1 million came from NLC members. 

“I’m a big believer in sports and the value of sports to build character and leadership skills. Any time you can combine that in a positive environment and help young people develop the skills to succeed in life, it’s fun to be part of that,” Brenneman said. “So given the love that I have for the school and the benefits I think it has not only for the student-athletes but also for alumni, there’s a great synergistic benefit there for everyone.” 

The NLC consists of four different tiers and at each level, members receive certain benefits. These range from the ability to purchase additional postseason and road tickets (Bronze) to pre-game field access for one home football game each season (Silver) to an exclusive invitation to an event for Diamond level members, who receive all of the benefits from the other tiers as well. 

Every NLC member also receives a Loyalty Book each year that highlights the impact their contributions have on K-State Athletics and recognizes each NLC family with as much as a full page. 

“I think what’s unique about it at K-State is there’s a real sense of community amongst the National Leadership Circle members,” Hamor said. “There’s a sense of pride amongst them that, ‘I am a leader for K-State Athletics.’ I think that’s different than what you see at other schools. I don’t know that everybody takes the pride that our National Leadership Circle members take in supporting their school.”
 
Every member of the NLC has a slightly different connection to K-State. Some are part of a long-running list of family members to attend K-State. Others, like Baccus, never went to school there but have strong ties to the school anyway. 

“Neither one of us are K-State grads,” said Baccus, whose wife worked as an executive assistant to Dr. Home Caley, Director of Extension Veterinary Medicine at K-State, for 13 years. Kimberly Bird, Baccus’ youngest daughter, graduated from K-State in 2008 and works at Dole Hall on campus. Another daughter, Michelle, has a son currently attending K-State. 

“We really love K-State,” Baccus said. “I have a couple of semi-trailers and a Powercat occupies the complete side of each trailer. We’re pretty fond of K-State.”

For more information about the Ahearn Fund or the National Leadership Circle, visit our website at AhearnFund.com or call us at 888-232-9074.