Philanthropist leaves $3.5 million to university, county
Former National Football League coach and university alumni Ken Shipp bequeathed $3.5 million to the university in scholarship funding for Rutherford County students, representing the greatest endowment of its kind.
Shipp died in early March 2012 at 83, and originally set up the fund in 2007 to aid Rutherford County high school students who demonstrated academic ability but were lacking financially.
“The majority of Mr. Shipp’s estate was bequeathed in his will to the university under the express condition that it be applied to scholarships for students, but more specifically any Rutherford County students who meet the eligibility requirements,” said Sidney McPhee, university president.
Shipp’s funding to the university, now totaling $4 million, awarded its first scholarship in 2009 and helped to renovate the Lady Raiders coaches’ offices according to Joe Bales, the vice president for development and university relations, who had been working with Shipp for the past seven years to achieve his philanthropic goals.
According to Bales, Shipp had no children of his own, but he truly valued young people and understood the significance of a university education.
“As a graduate he had a great love for the institution, as it gave him his start. He always stayed attached to it living in the community,” Bales said. “I think most importantly he just believed in young people, and he saw the great opportunity which the university presented for young people.”
The $3.5 million bequest will begin aiding Rutherford County students who earn an average grade of a ‘B’ and who meet the financial requirements in the fall 2013, McPhee said in a press release.
Johnny Sullivan, a longtime friend and business associate of 30 years, described Shipp as very caring and interested in the university.
“He took a lot of interest in helping out young people – not just students, he did a lot of work with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America,” Sullivan said. “It seemed like he was over there on campus or doing something with the BGCA every day.”
According to Bales, Shipp came from very modest means and graduated from the university in 1947. The university gave him the resources to succeed, which made him see the great value in a college education for young people.
“He was a former NFL football coach. He coached several NFL teams – the New York Jets, among others – and he actually coached Joe Namath at one point in his career,” Bales said. “He was semi-retired from the NFL and from coaching, and he had some small businesses that he ran in the community.”
Photo Courtesy of the Shipp family.