Late Richard ‘Dick’ Smith gifts $11 million to KU and Wichita State for scholarships


Monique Gaines

Richard Muma, president, shakes hands with Sondra Langel, widow of Dick Smith. Muma thanked Langel during his speech for the generosity of her family.

Wichita State was gifted the sixth largest endowment in WSU’s history, in the amount of $5.5 million from the late Richard ‘Dick’ Smith.  The money will be put toward full-ride scholarships for underserved, undergraduate students of any major.

Smith, founder of Range Oil Co., died on January 21 at the age of 87 and left behind an estate gift of over $11 million split between KU and Wichita State.  

“Dick specified that the scholarships at both institutions cover all expenses related to college,” Elizabeth King, president and CEO of the Wichita State University Foundation, said.  “So it’s tuition, fees, books, housing.  These full ride scholarships are considered among the most prestigious a university can award.” 

King, who knew Smith for decades, said that she remembers him telling her about being interested in dating Sondra Langel, his widow.  She said he admired her dedication to volunteerism and supporting the community.

Langel opened up her speech with a quote from Joseph Condrad, his favorite author.

“These are the words of Joseph Conrad, his favorite author,” Langel said.  “His books were with us wherever we went.  I tell you some things because I think students who will benefit from these scholarships will never know the man he was, and he was a man worth knowing.”

Langel described how he was a well educated man whose opinion was valued by others.  He didn’t tell jokes, but had a knack for seeing the silliness and irony in everyday things.

“Dick believed a college education could have an incomparable impact on the direction a child’s life could take,” Langel said.  “His family and friends join in celebrating the opportunities these scholarships will create for thousands of young Kansas students.”

Rick Muma, president of WSU, thanked Langel for her family’s generosity and support to the universities, and discussed the benefit to Kansas families.

“When we give people access to affordable higher education, when we open that window of opportunity for them, our students’ achievements and successes are remarkable and limitless,” Muma said.

As the event ended, King said that investing in future generations is essential, and this gift does just that.

“I have been dying to say this, we have an expression here at Wichita State, I’m just gonna adapt it a little bit.  It is a great day to be a Jayhawk, it’s a great day to be a Shocker,” King said.