Throughout their lives Jack and Donna Vanier of Brookville, Kansas, were instrumental contributors to many art, cultural, and business ventures throughout the decades. Donna was born on October 24, 1934, in Salina, Kansas, and passed away on May 23, 2020.
Internationally known in the livestock industry, the Vaniers owned CK Ranch in Brookville, which is home to one of the premier registered Horned Hereford lines in the world. As matriarch of the ranch family, Donna was active in all aspects of the cattle business, including producing the ranch’s annual production sale catalogs, hosting tour groups, tracking cattle inventories, and caring for the ranch employees and their families. She was one of the founders of the American Hereford Association Auxiliary and sought to ensure leadership in the next generation of agriculture by offering scholarships through the Hereford Youth Foundation and the Kansas 4-H Foundation.
The Vaniers are longtime supporters of Kansas State University. In 2005 Donna was honored with the Medal of Excellence, K-State’s highest honor, for having advanced the university through exceptional service, leadership, and philanthropic contributions. The Kansas Humanitarian Commission recognized the Salina couple in 2018 as humanitarians of the year in a ceremony at the statehouse.
In addition to giving a record multimillion-dollar donation to K-State in 2014, the Vanier family for sixty years has funded scholarships and facilities at the university. They provided the funding for many campus and sports structures, including the bronze Wildcat Statue at the K-State Alumni Center. The Vanier Family Sports Complex honors the family for their contributions to the athletics program.
Donna’s service in her hometown was significant. She served as a board member for the Rolling Hills Wildlife Museum, chairman of the board for St. John’s Military School, chairman of the board of Salina Regional Health Care Foundation, and founding board member of Salina Community Foundation. She also greatly supported the Stiefel Theater in Salina and the Salina Community Theater. Donna was the driving force behind the creation of the Donna L. Vanier Children’s Center which opened in 2012 in Salina.
The Vanier Family donated a major gift toward the building campaign for the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. Donna served as chair of the museum’s Board of Visitors for many years. Jack and Donna have always expressed their appreciation of arts and culture. It was their desire that the Donna Lindsey Vanier Gallery be primarily dedicated to displaying works of Kansas artists, showcasing touring art exhibitions and photojournalism. Some of the museum’s most prestigious collections have been exhibited in the Donna Lindsey Vanier Gallery.
Lifelong generosity and philanthropy are the models that Donna exhibited for her three children, Marty, John, and Mary, who carry on the Vanier tradition of community service and leadership. The siblings are all K-State graduates as well as trustees of the K-State Foundation. The Vanier family has given significant gifts to Kansas State University including: the Colleges of Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine, Health and Human Services, and Business; K-State Alumni Center; K-State Athletics; K-State Welcome Center; and K-State Cancer Center. They have also supported numerous scholarships for K-State students.
It was announced in April 2020 that the children of Jack and Donna Vanier are teaming up with the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership (KARL) program with a three-year gift to support deepened leadership experiences and growth.
Dr. Marty Vanier, DVM, is the director of the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center at K-State. She recently served as senior program manager for strategic partnership development for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kansas. Marty was the recipient of a 2017 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Medical Alumni Association. This award recognizes Dr. Vanier for her outstanding achievements, humanitarian service, and contributions to the veterinary profession.
John Vanier is a 1981 graduate of K-State. He has served on the executive committee of the College of Business Advisory Board, K-State Polytechnic Advisory Board, as mayor of Salina, Kansas, as a member of St. John’s Military School board of directors, and board member of UMB, National Bank of America.
Mary Vanier serves as president of Grand Mere Development Inc., Manhattan. She graduated from K-State in 1989 with a degree in hotel and restaurant management and has made significant gifts to the Center for Basic Cancer Research, Golf Course Management and Research Foundation, K-State Proud, K-State Athletics, and more. She also has established endowments and provided leadership for the university’s Gamma Phi Beta sorority and its national organization.
Donna’s endowments and lifelong philanthropic achievements are a lasting reminder of her generosity and love for the arts as a means to enrich children, students, and all Kansans for many decades to come. She will be remembered for her kindness and passion to do good in all ways possible.