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$5 Million Challenge Gift Inspires Giving to MU College of Engineering

College of Engineering surpasses $68 million campaign goal

Jan. 6, 2009

Story Contact:  Emily Smith, (573) 882-3346,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Hoping to encourage alumni and friends to assist the University of Missouri College of Engineering in achieving its goal in the For All We Call Mizzou campaign, MU alumnus Thomas Lafferre and his wife, Nell, made a challenge donation that resulted in a $5 million estate gift to the college.

"Nell and I wanted to ensure that the College of Engineering met the $68 million goal for the For All We Call Mizzou $1 billion campaign," Lafferre said. "As the end of the campaign approached, we realized that the college would need increased support to achieve the goal. We decided to make an anonymous pledge to encourage other donors to make gifts throughout the last months of the campaign."

The Lafferres matched the donations and pledges of other donors by increasing the amount of the estate gift as the other gifts were received. The couple has requested that the $5 million gift be designated to an unrestricted fund, allowing MU College of Engineering Dean James Thompson to make strategic investments in the college. The unrestricted fund will be used to update facilities, fund and enhance faculty salaries, and address other needs.

"I will never forget when I came to MU and met Huber Croft, the engineering dean, in 1952," Lafferre said. "He made a lasting impression and inspired me throughout my education and professional career. I have had great success because of my education at MU. This gift is a way to give back and ensure the success of the College of Engineering for years to come."

Lafferre received his bachelor’s degree from the MU College of Engineering in 1956 and his master’s degree in engineering management from Washington University in St. Louis in 1967. Upon graduation, he began a career with Monsanto and served in management and engineering positions worldwide, including vice president of operations. After retiring in 1993, Thomas and Nell, who attended the MU College of Education, settled in Brentwood, Tenn.

"The Lafferres and the donors who met the matching challenge demonstrated their commitment to the University of Missouri by helping the College of Engineering achieve its campaign goal," MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said. "Especially during these difficult economic times, our donors realize that giving to MU is a sound investment, ensuring that MU will continue to excel in educating the state's and nation's students while solving problems that affect our health and environment."

The couple has donated $12 million to support the College of Engineering. In 2004, the Lafferres made a $7 million commitment, which included both outright and estate gifts, to the college. Engineering Building East, which is undergoing a major renovation and expansion, was renamed "Thomas and Nell Lafferre Hall" in their honor. Additionally, during the campaign, the Lafferres provided more than $500,000 to support the MU Libraries.

"I am very appreciative of Tom and Nell Lafferre’s extraordinary generosity," Thompson said. "Tom and Nell have been supporters of the college for more than 20 years. Their most recent gift was critical to the college’s success in exceeding our campaign goal of more than $68 million. More importantly, Tom and Nell are setting the standard for giving. Their contributions have a significant impact on the construction of much needed facilities and the acquisition of equipment for our students and faculty."

The Lafferre’s gifts are included in the For All We Call Mizzou campaign, which has raised $1,031,223,722 for MU since 2000. The campaign enhances MU’s ability to compete nationally and internationally for the best students and faculty and provides broad access for students of all economic backgrounds to Missouri’s flagship university.