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Fall 2001

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Call to service
War-years alumna arranges major support for Skidmore

     Virginia Gooch Puzak ’44 will never forget that Sunday afternoon in December 1941.

     The eighteen-year-old sophomore music major had been playing piano in a practice room on campus, when she returned to Circular House to find faculty member Nina Pearce assembling the dorm residents to give them news that would change their lives: the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States was at war.

Ginny Gooch Puzak ’44

     Virtually overnight, Puzak recalls, she and her fellow students were “gripped by this tremendous pull to participate in the war effort.” She remembers waking at 6 a.m. with roommate Jean Poskanzer Rudnick ’44 to report for duty at the Lake Avenue armory as an airplane spotter, one of several Skidmore initiatives to contribute to the country’s defense. “It may be hard for people who did not live through those years to understand the absolute urgency of the need to serve,” notes Puzak. Many students were eager to quit school and join a women’s war-service corps like WAAC or WAVES, and Skidmore began offering summer sessions to help accelerate their education. Puzak was elected president of the summer students, finished her degree a semester early, in December 1943, and immediately joined the Red Cross as a social worker in a naval hospital in Queens, N.Y. There she met an officer who was recovering from injuries, and they married in 1946.

     Relocating to the Minneapolis area, Puzak became an active alumni leader and reunion volunteer. “During and after my 50th-reunion weekend,” she recalls, “I realized how I had drawn on my Skidmore relationship so many times over the years. I wanted to acknowledge that in a significant way while I was still well and able to make my own decisions.” Her husband, Nicholas, a Carleton College alumnus, had established a charitable trust to provide Carleton scholarships; now Ginny began working with Donald Blunk, Skidmore’s director of planned giving, to arrange a trust-based gift to Skidmore.

     “I recognized that a charitable remainder unitrust, naming Skidmore as a beneficiary, would demonstrate my affection and gratitude to the college,” Puzak reflects. The trust was established with long-held securities totaling some $1 million. Among the benefits to Puzak: the gift is tax-deductible, the donated stocks are exempt from capital-gains taxes, and a percentage of the trust’s interest is paid to her as annual income for her lifetime. Upon her death, the principal will be transferred to Skidmore and used, according to her wishes, to support programming at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery.

     For Puzak, the gift links her and her family to Skidmore in a tangible way. “The income received from my trust,” she explains, “has enabled me to provide a life insurance policy for our children’s future. They, in turn, learn that planned giving can benefit the donor and family as well as the college and community. For each of us, it is a way of honoring our roots and acknowledging the positive influences on our early personal development. And, as a family, we deem it a privilege and a satisfaction to do so.”

     Many years have passed since that December afternoon in 1941 when Puzak first felt a call to service. Clearly, that desire has endured over a lifetime. —MM


© 2001 Skidmore College