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FHSU grads donate $1M to school

10/15/2013

Special to the HDN

A former California couple -- who graduated from Fort Hays State University, went west for careers in education and then returned to Kansas upon retirement -- announced in a news conference today they have donated approximately $1 million to their charitable remainder unitrust to benefit their alma mater.

Richard and Dolores (Wills) Fischli, now in their 80s, both earned bachelor and master's degrees from FHSU and then taught in the Los Angeles Unified School System for many years. They grew up in rural Phillips County. Dolores was a graduate of Logan High School. Richard, who graduated from Speed High School, said he walked three and a half miles to high school and worked hard on the family farm.

"I was raised in the Dirty '30s," he said. "I know what hard times are; therefore, we are people who have saved. I believe in my heritage and the area where I grew up. That's where I began the fulfillment of my educational career. We also feel like we are benefiting the communities in this part of Kansas."

The Fischlis said they chose FHSU to be beneficiary of the trust because of their high regard for their careers as teachers. They credit much of their success to the education they received at FHSU.

In the 1940s, Richard attended FHSU but, because of the cost of college, alternated working and going to school when he could afford it. He also served a stint in the military and completed his bachelor's degree from FHSU in science in 1955 and his master's degree in education in 1957. During that time he and Dolores were married. Dolores earned her bachelor's degree in English in 1955 and a master's degree in theater arts in 1959, both from FHSU.

In 1960, they moved to California to advance their teaching careers and opportunities. He taught at Gaspar De Portola Junior High School for many years, and she taught at Westchester and El Camino Real High Schools. They retired from the Los Angeles Unified School System in the 1980s. After retirement, Richard was employed by California State University-Northridge, where he enjoyed his job of evaluating future teachers before they earned their teaching certificates.

They built their "dream home" in the Santa Monica Mountains in California. Both inherited family land in Kansas and Nebraska and purchased additional land over the years.

With no children, they decided to help other young people get an education and benefit the area where they were raised.