Worth couple commits $1 million for professorship, scholarship
Belfour and Betty Joe Lorbeer McMillen are people with
a passion for KU. Witness, for example, their commitment
of more than $1 million to keep outstanding math professors
at the University and encourage the study of dance.
The Fort Worth, Texas, couple established two trusts
at the Kansas University Endowment Association that
upon their deaths will create a mathematics professorship
and a dance scholarship. About $960,000 will fund the
G. Baley Price Professorship in Mathematics Fund, which
will provide the support to attract and retain an outstanding
professor of mathematics to KU. Approximately $50,000
of the gift will establish the Betty Joe Lorbeer McMillen
Dance Scholarship. The McMillen Scholarship will provide
four years of tuition assistance to a qualifying freshman
majoring in dance. The recipient will be required to
enroll in acting and voice courses in addition to dance.
Belfour, c'49, said the professorship was his way to
honor Price, a retired chairman of the KU department
of mathematics and a faculty member from 1937 until
1975. Belfour said he was impressed with Price when
he met him more than 40 years ago. At the time, Belfour
was manager of industrial and trade sales at John Wiley
& Sons. Through his contacts at the college department
at Wiley, he learned that Price had left KU to teach
for one year at a university on the West Coast. Belfour
thought it was wonderful that Price returned to teach
at KU after that year, he said.
"I wanted to know why, so I visited him at KU,"
Belfour said. "He said he and his wife stayed because
they liked KU and Lawrence. On top of that, he said
it was more fun to teach KU students, and he appreciated
the great diversity of campus life at KU. I thought
to myself, 'Here's someone who thinks like I do about
Kansas University and Kansans.'"
Price said he was surprised and honored that Belfour
would name a professorship for him.
"I am very honored by this generous gift to KU
from the McMillens to establish a professorship in my
name," Price said. "It recognizes the traditional
ideals of excellence in research, excellence in teaching
and commitment to public service."
The McMillen Scholarship honors Betty Joe's life-long
dedication to dance, which led her to Broadway and on
to the June Taylor Dancers on the Jackie Gleason Show.
She said she hoped the couple's scholarship fund would
help a young dancer prepare for his or her career.
"The university experience changes your life and
adds to your quality of life after your performing career
is over," she said. "It's important to a career
in the legitimate or musical theatre. As a performer
you need to have as many things going for you as possible,
and that's why I want them to have vocal and acting
training. It's my hope that someone, perhaps another
me, will benefit from this scholarship and be trained
to excel in dance at KU."
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway thanked the McMillens.
"The McMillens' generous commitment will have a
lasting impact on the students of KU," Hemenway
said. "Students taking math classes and particularly
graduate students studying mathematics will benefit
from the top-level teacher and researcher chosen as
the Price Professor. In addition, outstanding young
performers will have the opportunity to excel in dance
without the burden of tuition."
Belfour and Betty Joe met at KU. Betty Joe, a dancer
since childhood, enrolled at KU in the fall of 1946.
By early October, her plans to be a dancer were thrown
into question when she was stricken by polio. Although
it was a mild case, the Neodesha, Kan., native said
it left her in pain for six months and put her behind
in her coursework.
The following summer she met Belfour, who, like her,
had enrolled in courses that summer. She said Belfour
was the only man she dated who did not dismiss her dreams
of becoming a dancer in New York. The couple married
shortly after he graduated.
The McMillens went to Chicago, where Betty Joe studied
dance under acclaimed instructor Edna McRae and landed
her first television appearance. By 1953, Betty Joe's
career had taken her to New York City, where she studied
ballet with Vincenzo Celli. There she performed in the
Broadway production of "Hazel Flagg," which
won two Tony awards that year. In 1954, she became a
member of the June Taylor dancers, who performed on
the Jackie Gleason Show on CBS-TV. Betty Joe performed
as a dancer for the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City,
Mo., and later served on the dance panel of the Kansas
Arts Commission from 1973 to 1976. She eventually became
a private dance instructor in Fort Worth and taught
extended education classes at Texas Christian University.
She retired from dancing in 1962, and retired as a teacher
Belfour became a representative for Liberty Mutual
Insurance and went to law school at night at DePaul
University in Chicago. In 1969 he became an independent
publishers representative. Representing 40 publishers,
he traveled to bookstores, including those in universities
and colleges, throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and
Louisiana. He retired in 1993.
The McMillens have two children, Heather McMillen Reynolds
and Alexandra McMillen Dillon, journalism '86.
The couple's gift counts toward KU First: Invest in
Excellence, the largest fund-raising campaign in KU
history. KU Endowment is conducting KU First on behalf
of KU through 2004 to raise funds for scholarships,
fellowships, professorships, capital projects and program
support. KU Endowment is an independent, non-profit
organization serving as the official fund-raising and
fund-management organization for KU.