LAWRENCE — A gift of more than $2 million from the late KU alumnus John Bossi of Arkansas City will benefit the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Kansas.
The John V. Bossi Fund was established through KU Endowment to provide faculty development support for the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, which was Bossi’s area of study.
Bossi was born in Bolton Township, southeast of Arkansas City. He died in 2015.
He graduated from Arkansas City High School in 1941 and served in World War II in the U.S. Army medical corps in France and Belgium. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1948, Bossi spent six years at Phillips Petroleum in Texas and Pritchard Company in Kansas City, Missouri, before returning to his family’s farm southeast of Arkansas City.
Jim Bossi, of Arkansas City, one of John’s eight siblings, said John was doing well in his engineering career when their father had a heart attack. John took a leave of absence from Pritchard to come back to Arkansas City and help because his brothers were too young to take over.
“He decided once he returned that he wanted to stay on the farm,” Jim said. “He had a true love for the land.”
Jim said that John, who never married or had children, directed his estate gift to the university. “He wanted to give to KU, where it could go toward providing a quality chemical engineering education, like he had,” Jim said.
John formed Bossi Brothers Partnership with his brother Frank in 1958 to run the farm, and the partnership lasted 30 years before John retired and sold his half to Frank.
John told the Lawrence Journal-World in 1996 that among his favorite KU memories were the strong friendships he formed with his chemical engineering classmates. Jim said John admired his professors, too, and often returned to Lawrence to visit with them.
“Support for our faculty is crucial to our success and a key component of strengthening KU Engineering. We are grateful for this gift from Mr. Bossi,” said Michael Branicky, dean of the School of Engineering.
John’s youngest brother, Tom Bossi, of Winfield, remembers riding the train when he was about 10 years old to visit John when he was a student at KU. It was the weekend of an engineering exposition, and John showed Tom all around. Later, Tom would drive John to KU to visit when John was older and didn’t want to make the almost 200-mile drive one way to Lawrence from Arkansas City.
Tom, also a KU alumnus, said John loved the university and encouraged younger family members to become Jayhawks.
“He wanted everyone to go to KU,” Tom said.
Tom also said it was just a given that John would leave a gift for KU.
“It was what he loved,” he said.
KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.