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Join the Friends of the Presidents!
Established in 1966, the Friends of the Presidents Society recognizes the college’s most generous donors, who set an example of leadership in annual giving (the gift level for membership is $2,000, with a sliding scale of lower levels for the most recent classes). Meet an alumna who established a memorial scholarship with her FOP donations:
Devora Tabenkin Gronauer ’76 has always been a loyal Skidmore volunteer. But when she and her husband, Robert, began giving at the Friends of the President level in 1998, it a was decision that went beyond “giving back” to the college. She was also fulfilling a deeply personal commitment to honor the memory of her classmate and cherished friend Melissa Mosher Bilodeau ’76.
Melissa Mosher and Devora Tabenkin first crossed paths in the fall of 1972, while unpacking suitcases in their freshman dorm. For both, attending Skidmore was a dream made possible by loans, grants, and work-study aid. An elementary education major, Missy’s dedication to children continued to shape her life after graduation. In the summer of 1981 she was operating a day-care center on the small farm in Massachusetts that she shared with husband Ken and two young daughters. Godparents Devora and Robert were frequent guests. Devora recalls, “Missy was the kind of mom whose free spirit and gentle nature drew every child in the neighborhood to her. It seemed as if she was always surrounded by children.” But that winter Melissa was diagnosed with an aggressive form of malignant melanoma. Within just six months, at the age of 26, she succumbed to cancer. The tragedy intensified two years later, when Ken too perished, in a car accident, leaving their young children to the care of grandparents.
Determined to honor their friend’s life and spirit, Devora and Robert in 1983 established the Melissa Mosher Bilodeau Memorial Award, given annually to a student for “outstanding potential and commitment to education and working with children.” In 1998, as a surprise for his wife, Robert added to the fund, converting the award into an endowed scholarship. A Union College alumnus, he wanted to further Devora’s goal of “perpetuating something of Missy at Skidmore—a place to which she was extremely attached.”
“Endowing a scholarship seemed impossible when we started the prize fund,” reflects Devora. “But we made annual donations to the fund up through 1998, when we learned that its value had grown over time, so that now a scholarship was within our reach. And by giving appreciated securities, we also gained a tax benefit. It may have taken twenty years to get here, but we did it!”
Now living on a “gentleman’s farm” in Hanover, N.H., with her retired husband and their son and daughter, Devora is an active Skidmore admissions contact in the region. And she keeps in touch with the Bilodeau children. She says, “They’re our extended family”—which also includes four nieces and cousins who’ve joined the Skidmore clan: Seneca Clark ’99, Danika Charity ’01, Teal Clark ’04, and Erin McGinnis ’05.
Reflecting on Melissa’s friendship, Devorah cites her compassion, positive approach to life, and love and respect for children. In providing the Skidmore scholarship, she concludes, “if I have perpetuated some measure of Missy’s spirit, then I am well satisfied.” —MM