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Cameron University Foundation establishes endowments thanks to estate gifts from alumni

The Cameron University Foundation has established two new endowed faculty positions that will benefit students in perpetuity thanks to estate gifts from two alumni. The Robert Harmon Endowed Professorship in Mathematics and the Jeneanne Lawson Endowed Professorship in Communication were approved at the recent meeting of the University of Oklahoma, Cameron University and Rogers State University Board of Regents. University officials will now seek matching funds from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for this endowment.


The late Robert Harmon and the late Jeneanne Lawson each included Cameron University in their estate planning, albeit in different ways.


A native of Lawton, Lawson attended Cameron State Agricultural College from 1946 through 1949, earning an Associate in Arts and Science degree with a major in journalism. As an Aggie, she was a member of the Collegian staff and served as the editor, and was active in the Pep Pirates and the Cameron Players. While attending Cameron, Lawson also served as Women’s Editor for the Lawton Morning Press.


Throughout her lifetime, Lawson visited the Cameron campus and interacted with university staff members on a regular basis. She was vocal in her commitment to promote the educational interests and benefits of Cameron students, and her work with the Cameron University Foundation was a particular passion. She was a member of President’s Partners and made monetary donations to KCCU and the Centennial Changing Lives campaign during her lifetime. In 2013, Cameron University named the “Jeneanne Lawson Tutoring Center” in the Academic Commons in her honor.


“Mrs. Lawson was a dynamo,” says Albert Johnson Jr., Vice President for University Advancement. “She was passionate about higher education and made very clear her desire to help Cameron students as often as possible.”


Lawson passed away in 2018 at the age of 88. Her estate gift to the Cameron University Foundation included three properties. Proceeds from the sale of one of the properties has resulted in the establishment of the Jeneanne Lawson Endowed Professorship in Communication.


A native of St. Petersburg, Fla., Harmon attended Cameron State Agricultural College from 1965 to 1971 following 10 years of service in the U.S. Army. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry in 1970. One year later, he was the first Cameron graduate to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics. Harmon was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an interdisciplinary honor society.


Harmon, who lived less than three miles from campus, maintained a personal yet undisclosed connection to the university that was only made known to university personnel after his death in 2016. Harmon named the Cameron University Foundation as the beneficiary for his veteran’s survivor benefit. He also named the Foundation as beneficiary of two life insurance policies that resulted in a gift of $780,000.


“It’s literally a jaw-dropping moment when you receive a notification from an insurance company about a bequest that large,” says Johnson. “I wish that I could have met Mr. Harmon during his lifetime. The fact that he included Cameron University in his estate planning tells me that he must have had special memories of his time as a Cameron student and that he truly appreciated the education he received here.”


As Harmon was the first graduate to earn a mathematics degree, the Foundation chose to create an endowed professorship. The endowment will be utilized in part to provide mathematics-related outreach opportunities that will benefit primary and secondary school children in southwest Oklahoma.


Estate gifts such as those from Harmon and Lawson have a remarkable significant impact on Cameron students. Supporters who signal their intention to include the Cameron University Foundation in their estate planning become members of the Foundation’s 1908 Heritage Society.


“Gifts such as these create learning opportunities that would otherwise be unachievable,” says Johnson. “Cameron University is truly grateful for these gifts that will benefit our students in perpetuity.”


For more information about planning giving and other ways to give to the Cameron University Foundation, go to www.cameron.edu/cu_foundation or call the Office of University Advancement at (580) 581-2999.


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March 10, 2020