J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson, a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who had
been extraordinarily successful in business and education (as founder of
Texas Instruments, as a trustee of the Hockaday School, RPI, and the
Graduate Research Center of the Southwest, and later as four-term mayor
of Dallas, Texas), had become an important friend of Skidmore shortly
after Wilson became president.
Margaret and Erik Jonsson’s daughter, also called Margaret, was a
student in Skidmore’s class of 1960 when she was in an automobile
accident and injured her neck. President Wilson’s arrangements for her
to sleep in the infirmary, to increase her comfort and safety, had
earned the gratitude of her parents. Soon Erik Jonsson began the first
of his generous donations to the college$10,000, contributed
anonymouslyand within two years he was a member of the Skidmore
board of trustees. ...
In 1960 the Jonssons invited Val and Ruth Wilson to lunch at the Gideon
Putnam Hotel, then the most elegant accommodation in Saratoga Springs.
The two couples talked about the challenge that expansion posed to the
college. Ruth Wilson remembered, "All of a sudden, Erik said: ‘What do
you think of moving to a whole new campus?’ Val puffed on his pipe,
thought for a moment, and said, ‘I know just the place.’ "
The four got in the car and drove to Woodlawn, where the Jonssons saw
the beauty of the old estate, all one thousand acres of woods and
fields. Jonsson offered to obtain the land for the college, telling the
trustees, "I will give you the land, provided you study the situation
for a year."
College records include an October 18, 1960, purchase
agreement between Skidmore and Woodlawn owner Daniel Reisman, under
which Skidmore bought the property for $120,000, presumably provided by
from Make No Small Plans: A History of Skidmore College by Mary C. Lynn
Creative Thought Matters.