Former K-State band member supports brass players

KSU Foundation

Rod Cole ’56, ’59 (center) and his wife, Lois, are creating the Rodney and Lois Cole Scholarship for Brass. The scholarship will be awarded to a K-State student enrolled in any curriculum who plays a brass instrument in any of K-State’s bands. (Submitted photo)

As an out-of-state K-State student in the 1950s, Rod Cole ’56, ’59 was able to work his way through college, graduating with very little debt. However, he doubts students today would be able to accomplish that feat. That’s one of the reasons he and his wife, Lois, of Beverly Hills, Florida, are using part of an inheritance to create an endowed scholarship that will benefit students for generations to come. 

Cole played the French horn in K-State’s marching band, concert band and orchestra. The Rodney and Lois Cole Scholarship for Brass will be awarded to a K-State student enrolled in any curriculum who plays a brass instrument in any of K-State’s bands.

Although Cole was from Connecticut, his father, who had received his degree from Emporia State, encouraged his son to attend college in Kansas as he thought he’d get the best education for his money. Cole chose K-State, majoring first in agriculture, then changing to radio, TV and speech. 

“At first, I was not a real serious student,” Cole said. “What kept me going in college was playing in the band. I enjoyed that more than anything else. So I owe my early college education persistence to being in the band.”

Cole went on to earn his master’s degree in communications at K-State and later a doctorate from the University of Kansas. He spent his career teaching public speaking and organizational communications and coaching the debate team at the University of Maine.

Cole hopes his scholarship encourages other musicians to create scholarships for their instruments, helping students and K-State in the process. 

“I think the cost of education has gone too high, so if you can do a little cutting into the students’ costs, that helps,” he explained.

Support for students through scholarships is a key factor in K-State becoming a top 50 public research university by 2025. Alumni such as Cole are helping K-State meet this transformational goal.

Read more about how you can support the College of Arts and Sciences at K-State. 

 Alumni couple supports students through gift to aid Phase IV expansion

Thayne Kraus ’56 has made a few good decisions in his lifetime, but his best decision, he says, was marrying his wife, Leona ’55, during their sophomore year at Kansas State University.

“I made a good decision because I married a smart woman. She graduated summa cum laude,” he said of Leona, a K-State business graduate. “My wife has been a very important asset to me in my life and career.”

His management career took the couple around the globe as he worked for Union Carbide and Cardox Corporation, eventually retiring as president of U.S. operations for AirLiquide. Although he earned his degree in mechanical engineering in 1956, he credits his career path to the late Ralph G. Nevins, who was then assistant dean of the college. 

“He generally directed me into a career path that was more sales and business-oriented, and fortunately I was lucky enough to rise in the business world,” Kraus said. “The engineering background really helped because the sales division was interacting with technical professionals continually.”

The Krauses are supporting today’s engineering students with a gift to aid construction of Phase IV, the 108,000-square-foot addition to the engineering complex on campus. Together they named two Thayne and Leona Kraus Teaming Rooms, which will provide designated space for students to work and collaborate together. 

“If you’re going to attract qualified faculty and students to increase the level of research, I think having a nice facility helps that,” he said. “Of course, once you have the facility, then the work really starts in recruiting the faculty and getting the students that society really wants as employees.”

Read more about how you can support the College of Engineering at K-State.

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