John K. “Jack” Vanier, a longtime supporter of Kansas State University, known for his contributions to agriculture, the livestock industry and the university, died Friday. He was 94.
A funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m March 3, at Christ Cathedral in Salina. The family suggests memorial gifts to the Salina Community Foundation and the Meadowlark Hills Good Samaritan Fund in Manhattan.
His $60 million donation to K-State in 2022, was the largest financial gift in the university’s history and included $20 million toward Phase III of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium Master Plan. The remaining $40 million supported scholarships and fellowships in the College of Technology and Aviation at K-State Salina, the College of Business Administration and the Biosecurity Research Institute.
The Vanier family has given generously to K-State athletics over the years and the Vanier name is synonymous with university athletics, including the Vanier Family Football Complex, located on the north side of the stadium. Jack and his late wife Donna are also members of the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame, inducted in 1995.
Jack is a former president of the Kansas Livestock Association, one of several agricultural organizations he was a part of. He was also on the Boards of Directors of the National Cattlemen’s Association among others.
A full obituary, shared from the Vanier family, as well as statements from K-State officials, can be found below.
From the Vanier family:
To call Jack Vanier a founding father of a bygone rural Kansas culture would be three things at once.
An understatement, a compliment and a chance for Jack to respond in his characteristic unassuming nature — accompanied by that brilliant smile — that he was just doing what came naturally.
In his self-effacing, low-key way, it would also offer a golden opportunity for Jack to take issue with the “bygone” sentiment.
Soft-spoken and successful. Kind and productive. Reliable and generous.
If someone were to ask, “What does it mean to be called ‘the salt of the Earth?’” One would only need to spend a few minutes talking about Jack Vanier to get a deep and meaningful sense.
Jack grew up on the bedrock of honesty. He came of age with a work ethic. Integrity drove his success in business. With his bride, Donna, he raised a family on faith. Jack Vanier did not struggle with a greater cosmic meaning of why he was here, and that’s what made him such a good husband, father and grandfather, rancher and businessman. That’s what made him such a good friend.
He loved his neighbor and walked humbly. His sense of humor put you at ease as soon as you encountered him. Jack Vanier was fun to be around.
Born in Salina, Kansas, to John J. “J.J.” and Lesta Vanier, Jack operated the CK Ranch in Brookville, Kansas — once the largest producer of purebred Hereford cattle in the country. The family also held ranching interests in Wyoming, Colorado and Oklahoma.
Jack offered his gift of service and leadership capacity to a host of organizations, including the American Hereford Association, the Kansas Livestock Association, the Boards of Directors of the National Cattlemen’s Association and Archer Daniels Midland — roles in which he provided wisdom and insight, but mostly what he would have described as common sense.
And while much has changed in Kansas and the world during Jack Vanier’s time on this planet, his passing is not the end of an era. Jack’s legacy is with us today. You see it in Mary’s compassion for her community, in Marty’s brilliant smile and intellect, in the life lessons John learned from his father. In Jack’s grandchildren, you don’t have to look very far to see a direct reflection of his light and love.
You see it in the promise of entire generations touched by Jack’s benevolence through scholarship, mentorship, and stewardship.
Jack lives on in the thoughts and memories found uppermost in the minds and the warm feelings which lie deep in the hearts of all who encountered him. When we think of Jack Vanier, it is what comes naturally.
His contributions to agriculture, the livestock industry, to Kansas State University and to all the organizations and people he touched are many and significant. But it was by living his life the way he did that marks the profound contribution Jack Vanier made to our greater society, the rural culture and a way of life worth preserving, that will stand out.
Not because he wanted it to, but because he didn’t.
Preceded in death by his wife, Donna Lindsey Vanier, Jack is survived by sister Joyce Hale and brother Jerry Vanier of Kansas City, daughter Mary Vanier of Manhattan, daughter Dr. Marty Vanier of Manhattan and her stepchildren Katie (Kevin) Buehler, Kirsten (Nathan) Beemer and Kathy Krause, and son John K. Vanier II of Salina, his daughters Lauren Vanier and Sarah (Ryan) Geiger, John’s wife, Kim, and children Pallie (Bryan) Swartz, Landon Koehn, Jess Koehn, and Ty Koehn, Jake Mooney and Norah Mooney.
A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Friday, March 3, at Christ Cathedral in Salina, Kansas. The family suggests memorial gifts to any of the following organizations: the Salina Community Foundation and the Meadowlark Hills Good Samaritan Fund in Manhattan. Memorials may be sent in care of Ryan Mortuary, 137 N. 8th Street, Salina, Kansas 67401.
University President Richard Linton:
“Jack was part of the very fabric of Kansas State University. His vision, leadership, advocacy and philanthropy for both Kansas agriculture and our great university goes unmatched. The Vanier family has built an incredible legacy with remarkable impact for so many, and Jack’s vision laid that foundation. He will be greatly missed by so many, and our hearts go out to his family during this difficult time.”
Amy Button Renz, president and chief executive officer of the K-State Alumni Association:
“Jack Vanier was everything a K-Stater should be. He was generous, quick-witted and had a strong desire to help others. When I joined the staff at the Alumni Association, Jack was a member of the Board of Directors. It was an honor to learn from him, and I was blessed with his lifelong friendship. Jack and Donna were avid supporters of many areas at K-State, including the Wildcat Statue at the K-State Alumni Center. The statue has become a K-State icon and tradition, and it would not have been possible without their generosity. My thoughts and prayers are with John, Marty, Mary and the entire Vanier family.”
Gene Taylor, director of K-State athletics:
“We are deeply saddened by the loss Jack Vanier, a true K-Stater who impacted so greatly our university, athletics program and the entire state of Kansas. Jack was an amazing and humble person who had a deep love for the Wildcats, and he and Donna’s foresight, belief and incredible generosity will forever link the Vanier family name to K-State Athletics. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mary, Marty, John and the entire Vanier family during this emotional time.”
Greg Willems, president and chief executive officer of the KSU Foundation:
“Jack Vanier had a larger-than-life personality and was revered for his integrity and loyalty to his family and friends. His lifelong involvement and generosity supporting K-State has been truly remarkable. Jack’s humble leadership and unwavering support was treasured by countless leaders at K-State, and we will miss him greatly. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Vanier family on the passing of their patriarch and our magnificent friend.”