A retired Fort Hays State University professor has left a deferred financial gift to the department and clinic  she said changed her life.

Marcia Bannister, retired professor of communication disorders, will donate 73 percent of the minimum annual distribution of the retirement account she kept during her 36-year tenure at the university.

Jason Williby, president and CEO of the FHSU Foundation, made the announcement during a news conference Wednesday morning in the Memorial Union.

The gift will expand the Marcia Bannister Fund for Excellence her four sons, Mark, Ted, Grant and Joel — all FHSU alumni — created when she retired in 2004. Mark, dean of the Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship, and Ted were on hand for the announcement.

The gift will benefit the Department of Communication Disorders through faculty and staff development, graduate student scholarships and assistantships, and will help expand services of the Geneva Herndon Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, said Jeff Briggs, interim provost and vice president for academicic affairs.

Briggs spoke of how Bannister showed him care and compassion when he was the new chair of health and human performance and she was chair of communication disorders.

“She was always available to mentor a young, new and some would call naive department chair and was a wonderful resource and colleague,” he said.

That guidance continued through his career as dean of the College of Health and Life Sciences, he said.

Bannister spoke of the history of the communication disorders department and Herndon Clinic, and the mentorship she found in their founder, Geneva Herndon.

Bannister received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from FHSU in 1961, and the following year with a master’s in speech therapy with a minor in psychology.

“Discovering that discipline changed my life,” she said of speech therapy.

She then worked for several years as a speech therapist in schools in western Kansas before joining the FHSU faculty in 1969.

The Herndon Clinic was recently described by the parent of a graduate as a “class act,” Bannister said, but she laid out a history of the department and clinic that showed it wasn’t always treated as such.

“Within universities, it is said that the allocation of space is a subtle indicator of status,” she said, noting there was almost no space in the beginning. The programs gradually expanded to four rooms in the new Malloy Hall in the 1960s.

In 1974 it took over classrooms vacated by radio/TV, and in 2000 moved into its present space in a renovated first floor of Albertson Hall.

In 1988, the department became part of the College of Health and Life Sciences, and today is a free-standing department. The Herndon Clinic has partnerships with the Kansas Masonic Foundation and the Scottish Rite Foundation of Kansas to offer clinical services to adults and children through the region.

FHSU President Tisa Mason said Bannister epitomizes what FHSU stands for.

“As a student, you found a mentor, you found a dream and a vision, or in your words, your heart and soul, and that’s what we want for all of our students,” she said.

“You paid if forward with grace and passion,” said Mason, speaking of her leadership of the department and clinic.