Estelle E. Swanke Memorial Library
The library is central to any educational institution. Students with access to a robust and welcoming library are empowered to access information independently, introduced to new perspectives, and able to follow their interests from one book to the next. When planning the new building project, Kulm elementary and high school saw an opportunity to create a combined library that would be inviting to all reading levels, and that would reflect the strength of the education offered at Kulm Public School.
That was the goal, but it was expected to be a long journey. Funds for the building project were spread very thin, so resourcefulness and “make-do” was the order of the day. The initial plan for the library was to raise $10,000 through the foundation for a few new furniture pieces (a new circulation desk alone would be $6,000) and to reuse old shelving and chairs from the existing elementary and high school.
In the Spring of 2016, KPS received an extraordinary and unexpected gift that allowed the school to build the library they had hoped for. The origin of the gift dates back to 1998, when 1932 alumnus Clifford Francis or “Swing” Swanke established the Estelle E. Swanke Memorial in memory of his sister in the amount of $100,000 for the general benefit of Kulm Public School. Swing set up the gift in such a way that he would receive a small payment from the gift throughout the duration of his life; however, he surprised himself and everyone else by outliving the funds, and the school was not able to receive any benefit.
Swing passed away on December 15, 2015 at 101 years old. Before he died, he expressed his desire that the memorial be reestablished, but this time that it be used and effective in the school immediately. This outstanding gift has literally built the KPS library from bare walls to a welcoming and fully functional k-12 library. In honor of his transformative gift, the school board has voted to rename the library the Estelle E. Swanke Memorial Library, as funded by C.F. Swanke.
The library was still undergoing these transformations when Kulm Public School cut the ribbon and opened the doors on August 23, 2016. When the library was completed, KPS held an open house on Wednesday, December 14, 2016, almost exactly one year after Swing’s death.
Throughout his life, Swing had a unique ability to make a lasting first impression on everyone he met. Because of his very generous gift, he has left a lasting final impression on his alma mater and every KPS student.