Pay It Forward - Students benefit from Kasler family gift

Author: written by Becky Brown
Pay It Forward
Nearly two decades ago, Richard “Jeff” and Elaine Eldridge Kasler called their family together to discuss plans to form a charitable foundation. Sadly, Jeff Kasler passed away just a week after that conversation, but his family quickly followed through on his wishes — to the benefit of dozens of students in Purdue’s Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) program.

“Jeff and Elaine were college sweethearts who met at Purdue in the 1940s,” says Pat Ortiz, the Kaslers’ son-in-law and a member of the board of directors of the Kasler Foundation. “They both had a passion for education in general and Purdue in particular, so that became a priority for our charitable giving.”

Purdue is one of just six organizations to receive funding from the Kasler Foundation. Earnings from the foundation’s endowment support a number of small scholarships for CEM students — as well as larger financial gifts for one or two students each year who are deemed “leaders” in the CEM program. This year’s recipients are Grant Bucher and Adam Huber.

“I want to thank the Kasler family for this generous contribution to me and my fellow students,” says Bucher, a junior from Bluffton, Ind., who plans to pursue a career in the construction industry with a mechanical contractor after graduation. “Scholarships like these aid greatly in offsetting the expenses associated with college.”

“Jeff and Elaine both had a passion for education 
in general and Purdue in particular, so that 
became a priority for our charitable giving.”

– Pat Ortiz

Though Jeff Kasler received his degree in aeronautical engineering, it was his long career in the heavy construction industry that led to the Kasler Foundation’s support of Purdue’s CEM program. After working as an aircraft designer for Northrop Corp. and a civil engineer for the California Bridge Department, he joined his father’s civil engineering company, Fredericksen and Kasler, in the late 1940s. He served in a number of positions there, and when C.E. Kasler died, Kasler Corp. was founded by Jeff and Jerry Kasler and three others in 1961. The company, which went public in 1982, was one of the nation’s largest highway builders during the second half of the 20th century.

“My father-in-law had a strong attachment to Purdue because of the foundation the school instilled in him,” Ortiz says. “We’re proud to continue the legacy he and Elaine asked us to implement, and I hope the recipients of the Kasler Foundation scholarships will follow in their footsteps and give back to the University.”