Ten years ago, the Butler men’s basketball team was on its way to a historic second consecutive NCAA title game appearance. Tom ʼ70 and Deborah Slaton were following along closely from their home in Lexington, Kentucky, where Tom had recently retired from a 40-year career as a financial advisor, and Deborah had just retired after 26 years as a professor and associate dean in the College of Education at the University of Kentucky (UK).
The couple was so inspired by the back-to-back title game appearances, and by the quality of the student-athletes on those 2010 and 2011 teams, they decided to include a gift to the Butler men’s basketball program in their estate plans. Ten years later, that gift is now valued at approximately $2 million, and the Slatons say they’ve only become more convinced their decision to invest in Butler basketball was the right one.
“We saw how the success of the basketball program in 2010 and 2011 propelled Butler into the limelight,” Tom says. “It allowed people to know about Butler both academically and athletically, and it helped showcase the many things that Butler has to offer. We think that a strong athletics program can support a strong academic program, and success for athletics can unquestionably lead to success for the entire University.”
Tom graduated from Butler with a business degree in January of 1970, just a few months before Tony Hinkle retired as the Bulldogs’ head coach. As the years passed by and he was busy with his financial career in Lexington, Tom lost track of Butler basketball. The games were rarely on television, and he didn’t have many occasions to return to campus.
But Tom and Deborah both remember when they started paying more attention to the team. It was March 16, 2001, and the couple was on vacation in Florida, where they vividly recall watching Butler beat Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
As Butler basketball rose in prominence through the early 2000s, the Slatons began following the team more closely. By the time the Bulldogs were facing Duke in the 2010 championship game in Indianapolis, they were hooked. And, as they began to enjoy retirement and make plans for their estate, those back-to-back Final Four appearances inspired a desire to support the team in a more concrete way. Since formally documenting their estate gift in 2012, the Slatons have started making the drive from Lexington to Indianapolis a few times each year to watch games at Hinkle Fieldhouse and to visit with the Butler friends they have gathered along the way.
“Tom and Deborah Slaton have been incredibly generous and loyal friends to the Butler men’s basketball program for many years,” says Barry Collier, Vice President and Director of Athletics. “Their planned gift will positively influence the lives of future student-athletes and will support the program’s long-term goals of consistently competing successfully in the BIG EAST Conference while representing the best of Butler University on and off the court. On behalf of Butler Athletics, I am grateful Tom and Deborah have chosen to invest so generously in the future of the Butler men’s basketball program.”
Along with Tom’s fond memories of his own days as a Bulldog, the Slatons say the thing that makes Butler most special to them is the spirit of The Butler Way.
“When we read the five guiding principles [of The Butler Way], we agree that these are key for education, teamwork, and success,” Tom says.
Deborah says her career at UK made her feel especially confident in the far-reaching impact of a philanthropic investment in higher education. Along wit