At its 100th anniversary commemoration on Tuesday, the University of Arizona School of Anthropology announced that UA alumni Philip and Kathe Gust have committed the bulk of their estate — a transformative $3 million gift — to the school to support field research for graduate students.
UA President Ann Weaver Hart, who spoke at the commemoration ceremony, praised the Gusts' impact on student engagement.
"The Gusts' generosity is a wonderful example of the impact that UA alumni and friends can have in the lives of our students as part of the Arizona NOW campaign," Hart said. "Graduate fieldwork is absolutely critical in anthropology, and by ensuring that students are able to hone their skills and apply knowledge they have gained in the classroom, the Gusts are helping to ensure that the School of Anthropology will continue as a global leader for many years to come. With the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the School of Anthropology, I am truly grateful for this expression of partnership and support."
The School of Anthropology, housed in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, has more than 100 graduate students, and field research is an essential, yet costly, aspect of their education. When working in the field, graduate students contribute to faculty research while they develop knowledge and skills. They further apply their abilities through independent research for their master's theses and dissertations.
Even though public funding has declined, society recognizes the value of interdisciplinary scholarship such as that produced in anthropology, said Diane Austin, director of the School of Anthropology.
"Major financial commitments such as this generous gift from the Gusts fill a critical gap and help ensure that the School of Anthropology remains a leader going forward," Austin said. "Given the costs associated with field research, our ability to support this important aspect of students’ education will help us recruit top students and prepare them for the challenges and joys associated with careers in anthropology."
The Gusts' gift puts the UA even closer to its goal of raising $1.5 billion during the Arizona NOW campaign, which was launched publicly in April 2014 and concludes in June 2018. The comprehensive fundraising campaign is distinguished by its unprecedented scope as well as its ties to Never Settle, the UA’s strategic academic and business plan. To date, the campaign is ahead of pace with more than 85 percent of the goal already raised. The vast majority of gifts are "restricted," which means they can be used only for a specific purpose or project.
"Philanthropic support is essential for the success of our college and our students," added John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. "The Gusts’ generous gift will help us provide funding to students to assist with their studies and real-world learning experiences. Donors like the Gusts enable students to achieve their educational goals and go on to careers where they will shape our understanding of our world."
Kathe Gust’s interest in the field of anthropology stems to her UA days.
"When I was in college I was thinking of going into archaeology but that was a bad time to go into the field, so I took another career path. But I have always been interested in it," she said.
"Kathe would still like to go out and do fieldwork and participate in digs someday," said Philip, who is interested in cultural anthropology and philology (the study of language in written historical sources). "As long as there’s a chance of discovering texts, I’ll be happy to join in."
Working in the UA Main Library to help pay for her education, Kathe obtained her Bachelor of Arts in speech communications and fine arts and her Master of Science in library science from the UA. She has worked in academic, public and corporate libraries and is now an engineering librarian at Stanford University.
Philip obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and psychology and a Master of Science in computer science at the UA. He taught computer science at the UA in the 1970s, has created products for a number of high-tech companies, and recently was involved with developing digital preservation software at Stanford University.
In their personal lives, the couple's love of culture, history and art is reflected in one of their favorite pastimes: historical and sci-fi/fantasy costuming.
"One way to understand a culture, whether historical or fictional, is to dress like them," Philip said.
The Gusts also enjoy collecting things, mostly artifacts.
"We have a fairly substantial Oaxacan figure collection, and we have several medieval manuscripts on our wall," Philip said. Other collections include production Disney animation cels and wooden bowls from all over the world. They plan to leave some of these collections to the UA.
Kathe says that the couple financially support a variety of causes, leaning toward areas they are personally involved in, such as the arts. "But we wanted to make the last gift something that would have meaning going forward to a lot of people. We thought benefiting students was a really good way to do that," she said.
Kathe said that she and Philip saw a need for students to get hands-on experience in the field and to be trained properly, which inspired the focus of their gift to the School of Anthropology.
"We are both deeply interested in furthering education for the next generation," she said. "We were really lucky to be able to go to the UA and have jobs to pay for it. I think that anthropology is an extremely important and diverse field, and it is something that we are happy to support."