Lydia Skeen (center) was recognized with the announcement of the Skeen Endowment Fund following May 1997 commencement exercises. Left to right, Mrs. Skeen's nephew Dwight Andres, his wife Marilyn, and daughter Crista, Michael Holen, dean, College of Education, and Mrs. Skeen's nephew Dr. James Marlin
Lydia and Elvon Skeen's dedication to teaching and providing educational opportunities to students was evident in their actions throughout their lives. Always loyal to Kansas State University, and having no children of their own, the Skeens felt a gift to K-State would allow a large number of students to continue to benefit from their life's work.
Working with KSU Foundation staff, the Skeens established the single largest commitment ever provided to K-State's College of Education. The Elvon G. and Lydia E. Skeen Education Fund, which will accrue over $1 million in endowed funds, will be used to provide scholarships for outstanding College of Education students and to support faculty-recognition awards.
The real estate used to establish the Skeens' generous gift to K-State is situated on the McKenzie River near Eugene, Oregon, and provided a beautiful retirement home for Lydia and Elvon for several years. In order to create the fund, the land was deeded to the KSU Foundation by Lydia, who has lived in Eugene since Elvon's death in 1995.
"Lydia and Elvon Skeen were dedicated teachers and we are extremely grateful that they will continue forever their devotion to education by establishing this endowment." Mike Holen, dean, College of Education, said. "Their commitment to provide resources to assist future students and faculty is unprecedented for our college."
The Skeens both earned their bachelor's degrees from K-State in 1931. After graduation, Elvon coached several sports and taught math and science while Lydia taught history and English. Both eventually returned to K-State to pursue advanced degrees. Elvon earned his master's in physical education in 1937 and Lydia received her master's in history in 1938. The couple remained in Kansas and taught in Haven, Yates Center, and Kanopolis, before retiring and moving to Alaska in 1947. After retiring to Alaska, the Skeens decided to resume their careers. Elvon served as superintendent of several schools in Alaska and Lydia taught social studies.
With the completion of successful careers in education, the Skeens decided to try retirement once more. In 1954, they purchased a 20-room hunting and fishing lodge located along the bank of the McKenzie River. The lodge formerly hosted dignitaries such as Presidents Herbert Hoover and Calvin Coolidge. Shortly after the property was purchased, the lodge burned. The Skeens then built a beautiful home overlooking the McKenzie River on the spot where the lodge had been located. They only had to step out their back door to enjoy the spectacular vista provided by the tranquil McKenzie River and the lush valley surrounding the property. It was while they were living on the property that the Skeens were called out of retirement once more and headed back to Alaska. Elvon took the position of Superintendent of Schools in Bethel, Alaska, and Lydia returned to teaching.
Retiring to the McKenzie River property for the final time in 1959, the Skeens traveled extensively as well as enjoyed gardening, fishing and walks on the McKenzie River Foot Bridge, located behind their home.
The Skeens led life to its fullest in their careers and in retirement. Their love for teaching touched the lives of many students throughout their long and varied careers. Not only was this love for teaching demonstrated in the classrooms in which they taught, but, now with their gift, generations of new K-State students' educational endeavors will continue to be touched by Lydia and Elvon Skeen's love for education. With the establishment of the Skeen Education Fund, their commitment to education and students, much like the McKenzie River, will continue to flow.
Ovations, Winter 1999