Pat Kerr with School for the Future of Innovation in Society Director Dave Guston signing the planned giving agreement at the Chuck Box

Veteran leaves a legacy to lift people up, provide more opportunities

By

Ashley Richards

The future is for everyone. That’s the message of Arizona State University's School for the Future of Innovation in Society in the College of Global Futures. And that message is what caught the attention of Walter “Pat” Kerr.

He wants to secure a future for everyone, not just the privileged few. Kerr saw that the school is doing just that, by creating an environment that lifts everyone up, with students and faculty who are working to make the world a better place. He wants to help continue that work and promote those values by donating his estate to the school after he passes. 

“I just want more people to have the opportunity of a better and ongoing education,” Kerr said. “I want to help society get a little better.”

The mission to lift people up and provide more opportunities is a goal Kerr shared with his wife, Darby. They both grew up in Texas in the 1930s along the U.S.-Mexico border and saw a divide between those who could afford higher education and those who could not. People who weren’t able to attend college were treated differently and without respect. Kerr and his wife saw how unfair that was and felt that making higher education more attainable could help end that divide.

“How can we leave these people alone?” Kerr said. “We can’t; they're part of us. It pains me to see anything different.”

Education was important to the Kerrs. Darby had a degree in elementary education and was a schoolteacher for 15 years. Kerr earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M, and then after serving in the U.S. Army, he went back to college and received a master’s degree in entomology. Kerr and his wife felt that higher education was essential and should be available to everyone. Education could bring people from different backgrounds together.

“The more educated we are, the more we understand others and accept them,” Kerr said.

After Darby passed away from cancer in 2008, Kerr wanted to honor her legacy and help others. The endowment is a way to do both.

Kerr believes in responsible innovation and social inclusiveness, and his gift will help the school further its commitment to both. His generous donation will provide more opportunities for students and inspire fresh thinking for better futures. He wants everyone to be able to attend college and contribute their knowledge to the world. 

“With a college education, you know what it is to be better,” Kerr said. “And if you have that knowledge, you strive to be better.”   

Even though achieving that higher education can be a bit intimidating, Kerr appreciates the inclusiveness at the School for the Future of Innovation and Society and how leadership, faculty and staff make everyone feel welcome. 

“We still have a long way to go kiddo,” he said. But the work done at the school is like no other, and critical to creating the better future he imagines for the world.