Gene and Jean Cravens

In addition to supporting UK, Jean and Gene have traveled all over the world building homes with Habitat for Humanity.

Kentucky natives Gene and Jean Cravens come from different backgrounds, but they share a devotion to the Commonwealth. A self-described “country boy,” Gene met Jean at a party in Owensboro when they were high school students.

“I was impressed this city girl knew what a trench silo was,” Gene said.

Little did Gene and Jean know at the time, but they would go on to forge a strong marriage marked by service and generosity.

Recently, the couple established the Gene and Jean Cravens Distinguished Professorship in Land-Grant Service Fund endowment through a gift of real estate and cash. This gift will support UK Agriculture Extension, community outreach and involvement, and programs in rural Kentucky.

“We’d like to improve as many people’s lives as we can,” Gene said. “Rural Kentucky needs lots of help. I’m sure there’s some neat things we’ll be able to do.”

Leading a Life of Generosity

When Gene enrolled at UK, he followed in the footsteps of his parents. As a student in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Gene felt a great camaraderie with his fellow students “on the farm.”

Gene graduated with a B.S. in Agriculture in 1958. Jean followed the next year with a B.A. in Education. Gene spent his career with New York Life, becoming a chartered life underwriter. Additionally, Gene tackled commercial real estate projects, including apartments near campus that students managed and rented.

Along the way, the Cravens taught their three daughters the importance of giving back, leading by example. In addition to being active in church and serving on nonprofit boards in Lexington and Vero Beach, Florida, Gene and Jean have traveled all over the world building homes with Habitat for Humanity.

Jean and Gene Cravens

Jean and Gene Cravens

“We have so much compared to others,” Jean said. “We try to live out our faith by sharing with others.”

UK has been the recipient of Gene and Jean’s time and talents. Both are UK Fellows and life members of the UK Alumni Association. Gene served on the national UK Alumni Association Board of Directors, and Jean was honored with the Sullivan Medallion Citizen Award in 1995.

Gene notes that UK has always been an important part of their family’s life. The Cravens have also made UK part of their philanthropic efforts.

“Our lives have revolved a good bit around the university,” Jean said. “We’re delighted to do something to help out this place that’s given us so much.”

They have established the Cravens Family Scholarship in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; created the Gene Cravens Alpha Gamma Rho Scholarship; contributed to the Alpha Gamma Rho Chapter House; supported the UK Arboretum; included UK HealthCare in their estate plan; and, most recently, transformed their commercial real estate into the Gene and Jean Cravens Distinguished Professorship in Land-Grant Service Fund.

Transforming Real Estate Into a Gift

Most donors don’t think of property as their first line of giving, but the Cravens see it as a way to spread the research of the university to every county in the state through the Cooperative Extension Service. Also, it was a smart move financially, enabling the couple to earn a tax deduction all while creating an endowment. The endowment will support the Gene and Jean Cravens Distinguished Professorship in Land-Grant Service Fund.

The Cravens feel blessed to be able to support UK and serve their fellow Kentuckians with their gift.

“We've got much more than we need,” Gene said. “Many people in our stage of life have been good savers and we ought to be giving back to our universities or to some charity.”

Find Your Philanthropic Path

There are many ways to support the college or program of your choice at UK. A future gift is a meaningful way to do so. To learn more, contact Gift and Estate Planning at (859) 257-7886 or giftandestate@uky.edu.