McPherson County Community Foundation’s Philanthropist of the Year ceremony on Thursday honored the late David J. Nutt. The philanthropist awarded more than $15 million to the Lindsborg community through a trust in October this year.

MCCF Director Becky Goss explained that this is a slight change to the foundation’s standard ceremony, where three nominees are honored and one is selected as the Philanthropist of the Year.

“Instead, we’re recognizing the tremendous gift we received from the David J. Nutt trust,” Goss said. “It’s a little bit different in that respect, but it’s still an opportunity to recognize and share what’s going on with the foundation. We had a goal of building our funds to $24 million by the end of 2020. With this gift, we are past $26 million, three years early. It’s a phenomenal gift to us and it’s an opportunity for us to see what’s next and really focus on how we can be most effective with our grant dollars.”

The foundation has given the annual Philanthropist of the Year award to recognize volunteers in the county for their service. The foundation also supports organizations and individuals with grants.

Students from Windom Elementary School also presented at the ceremony because of grant funds that allowed the building of a greenhouse at the school. Students learn about plants and healthy eating by growing a variety of flowers and produce in the greenhouse and the sale of plants raises funds for other school activities.

Through the David J. Nutt Trust, MCCF received over $7.4 million and Bethany College and the Lindsborg Community Hospital were gifted more than $3.7 million each. Other beneficiaries of the trust are Trinity United Methodist Church, Lindsborg Community Library, the McPherson Old Mill Museum and Bethany Home, and each received $100,000.

Each of the organizations will benefit from these gifts, and the MCCF gift will continue to work hard in the Lindsborg community through Nutt’s endowment.

“What happens with that endowed fund is that we invest that money, and every year, we give a percentage back to that designated purpose. We typically try to award five percent of the fund’s value to that purpose, which in this case, is the Lindsborg community. So each year, we’ll do either grant applications, a community assessment, or a variety of things to make sure that money goes back to those organizations that serve the Lindsborg community,” Goss said. “Our first round of grants won’t be until fall, partly because it’ll take a while to get money into the investments and we also had no idea it would be this size of gift. We need to take some time to asses the community and talk with individuals to get a handle on what will make sense here. Once it’s fully invested, there will be about $350,000 that we’ll give every single year.”

The foundation’s board will start surveying the community and Lindsborg organizations to decide what next steps to take. The plan is to implement the next phase by Sept. 1 next year.

The ceremony on Thursday consisted of three segments that were divided by readings of Nutt’s writing, performed by McPherson College student Tanner Trigg.

David J. Nutt was born in Lindsborg in 1925 and graduated from high school there in 1943, in the middle of World War II. He was then drafted and served in the military until the end of the war overseas.

“Part of what he gave to the Old Mill Museum were all the letters he sent to his parents while he was serving. As I was reading them, I wanted to know more about what he was doing and where he was and so on, since they couldn’t put that in their letters home,” Goss said. “He compiled those letters and put together a book. For each letter, he added a narrative to explain where he was and what was happening in the war. It’s a great book.”

He attended Kansas State University and received his degree in engineering, which he used to work around the world and eventually settled in California. However, Nutt stayed connected to his hometown by visiting his parents in Lindsborg over the years.

In 2004, Nutt contacted the newly-formed foundation for information about giving.

“We had started in 2001 so we were relatively new, but he heard about us through an article in the McPherson Sentinel, since he still kept in touch with the local area, so he contacted us for information. I didn’t hear from him again until July of that year when he sent a $1,000 check to establish a fund. He said he would do that every year until he hit the endowed amount of $10,000,” Goss said.

Three years later, Nutt wished to see some of the money he saved at work, so he sent the foundation half of what they would ultimately receive.

“That was $138,000. So we set it up, invested it and started awarding grants,” Goss said. “When he passed away in December 2016, we received a notice from his attorney to sign some documents since we’re a beneficiary and at that time, I was still thinking there would be about $140,000 added to the fund. A few months later, we found out that it was actually $5 million. As they then finished getting the assets, we then found out it was $7.4 million to the endowed fund here.”

Goss explained that Nutt’s endowment was developed through smart investment.

“He kept a spreadsheet when he started investing in 1955, at the end of that year, he had $9,500 and at the end of 2014, he had $11.1 million. He lived a frugal life but he was happy,” Goss said.

For Goss, Nutt’s incredible gift is just another way the foundation can fuel a better future for the next generations of McPherson County residents.

“It’s going to have a huge impact on the Lindsborg community forever, so we need to make sure we do what we can to make sure it goes to the most appropriate places in the most appropriate ways,” Goss said. “The beautiful thing about it is that it can change ever year, it can go to multiple groups over time.”

For more information about grants or the Philanthropist of the Year program, visit http://www.mcphersonfoundation.org/

Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at cderksen@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter at @DerksenSentinel.