By Greg Schaber
Steven Durkee has a sense of history, so he’s looking to the future. Even though the 1996 graduate still has a few years left before retirement, he and his wife Kathy decided to plan ahead by arranging to leave a percentage of their estate to the various institutions and organizations—including the University—that have touched their lives.
After 25 years as a businessman, Durkee got a master’s degree in religion from the Athenaeum of Ohio in 1988 and two years later began teaching at Covington Catholic High School in Northern Kentucky. He soon discovered teaching religion involved more than lesson plans and lecturing—students actively sought him out to talk over all kinds of things. “That was a great ego boost and inspiring, but at the same time kind of scary,” he says.
At the time, there was no counseling law in Kentucky, but Durkee decided he needed some practical and theoretical training. So he applied to the University to work on a master’s degree. “It was exciting,” he says. “We were blessed with some excellent full-time faculty members, and the adjuncts were wonderful. I got my M.Ed. in counseling in 1996. Then I did my clinical endorsement in 2000.”
The University gave Durkee, now 55 years old and a partner in the Northern Ky.-based Summit Behavioral Health Group, one of the biggest highlights of his career: In 1997, he was asked to come back to campus as an adjunct professor.
“To be accepted as an adjunct at Xavier was quite an honor,” he says. “I’ve been blessed to be teaching on the adjunct faculty ever since.”
Feelings like Durkee’s are common among those who give to Xavier, says Mark McLaughlin, the University’s director for estate and planning services. All share both a strong conviction that the University had a positive impact on their lives and the desire to ensure that future generations will be able to share that experience. They give, McLaughlin says, in a variety of ways, according to their ability.
Some, like graduate Stuart J. Kelley, leave property. Kelley, a 1953 graduate who died this past February, left a home and property in the Cincinnati suburb of Amberley Village and a two-bedroom condominium in Ocala, Fla., with a total value of $200,000. Others, like Robert Borcer, choose to give monetary gifts. The 1968 graduate, a longtime annual fund contributor who died last July, left the University a bequest of $2.5 million earmarked for the sciences.
And still others, like 1940 graduate Paul C. Beckman, make it a family affair. Along with his brother Vincent H. Beckman, a 1938 graduate, and sister Irene Leverone, Beckman, who passed away last October, pledged a total of about $1 million to establish the University’s Beckman Chair in Theology in honor of their brothers John J. Beckman, S.J., and Robert E. Beckman, S.J.
“Xavier was one of my father’s favorite places, partly because of his experiences there, and because it’s a Jesuit institution and his brothers were Jesuits,” says Beckman’s daughter, Mary Kay Rottner. “The impact the University had on him must have been very profound for him to keep up his love and support for 64 years.”
Rottner recalls that her father, a former captain of the Musketeer basketball team, was a longtime season-ticket holder and in recent years served as a member of a lay academic board put together by University Chancellor James E. Hoff, S.J. In addition, his law firm, Beckman, Weil, Shepardson & Faller, provides legal counsel for the University.
While it’s true large gifts often grab the headlines, McLaughlin says it takes gifts of all types and sizes to help the University realize its dreams. Perhaps Durkee, as much as anyone, personifies that idea. “I want to make sure Xavier’s counseling program will be there for people I don’t even know,” he says. “Someone did that for me before I got there. You’ve got to provide for the future. And at $400 or so a credit hour, if I can help pay for somebody who otherwise may not go to school—hey, that’ll work.”