Lila Self and Madison Self

Madison & Lila Self

The late Madison "Al" and Lila Self launched and permanently endowed the Self Graduate Fellowship in 1989, motivated by their strong belief in the vital importance of developing leadership for tomorrow. The Kansas natives, Mr. and Mrs. Self, met at the University of Kansas. With their lifetime and estate gifts, the Selfs donated $106 million to KU, making them the most generous private donors to date in the university's history.

Mr. Self, who graduated from KU in 1943 with a degree in chemical engineering, became the owner and CEO of Bee Chemical Co. in Lansing, Illinois in 1947. When he sold the company 37 years later, it had grown from a staff of three to a sizeable corporation with five manufacturing locations in the United States and international operations in Japan and England.

In 1985, Mr. Self founded Allen Financial, a private investment firm. In 1989, with three associates, he established Tioga International, Inc., a diversified research, development, and manufacturing company. After achieving planned objectives, the group sold Tioga in 1999.

In 1997, Mr. Self was awarded a Distinguished Service Citation by the University of Kansas and the KU Alumni Association, the University’s highest honor. He received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters and Science from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1998. The University of Kansas School of Engineering recognized Mr. Self’s contributions to the engineering profession and society by giving him its Distinguished Engineering Service Award in 2000. In 2009, Mr. Self was named a Life Trustee of the KU Endowment Association. He was elected to this position in recognition of his exceptional support of the University of Kansas through tireless efforts and philanthropic support. He was one of the first three members of this prestigious group, along with Senator Robert Dole and Christina Hixson.

Mr. Self maintained a lifelong interest in education and leadership development. He was a past international president of the Young Presidents’ Organization and served as chairman of the Chief Executives Organization. He was also a founding member of the World Presidents’ Organization, a professional association that provides its members with opportunities for education and idea exchange. He served as a life trustee of the Illinois Institute of Technology. Mr. Self died in January of 2013.

Mrs. Self was actively involved in the fellowship's creation and implementation and prioritized getting to know each of the Fellows. Her interests included community organizations, family genealogy, and gardening. She also conducted extensive research on the work of R. Harold Zook, a noted Chicago area architect. Mrs. Self died in November of 2013.

After the couple's passing, an additional gift was endowed to the university, resulting in the creation of the Self Memorial Scholarship in 2014. Although you can find more evidence of the Self's generosity and work throughout campus, the Madison and Lila Self Graduate Programs administer the only two graduate-level programs - the Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellowship and the Madison and Lila Self Memorial Scholarship.