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alumni news

Reunion 2008 Picture perfect
Alumni Association applauds ten New award adds creative twist
Club connection Bandersnatchers hit Naples, Fla.
Big steps in parent giving Case patio commemorates seniors' family gifts
Campaign gifts get right to work Updates on four recent gifts


Campaign gifts get right to work

Supporting the Zankel Music Center

Celebrating a steel girder might sound odd—but it can also sound melodious. Even before the start of the steel-raising celebration for the Arthur Zankel Music Center, music professor Gordon Thompson and Mike Kaplan ’09 improvised a lively drum duet on the edges and flats of an I-beam that was set oust at the podium near the bustling construction site. It was as though their rendition was a preview of the creative synergy that the new center holds in store, and they couldn’t wait to get started.

The ceremony itself began with more formal performances, from blues to Telemann to a “cowboy medley” (occasionally in synch with the bangs and roars of the ongoing Zankel construction in the near distance). Then Sue Corbet Thomas ’62, chair of the Skidmore board, offered words of praise for financier Arthur Zankel, her fellow trustee and a Skidmore parent, whose historic $42 million bequest to Skidmore included $15 million toward the new music building.

Executor Martin Zankel warmly remembered his brother’s philanthropic spirit. He said Arthur had “two important talents by which he lived his life”: making money to earn his living, and giving money away to benefit future generations. Martin handed an additional gift of $4.5 million to Skidmore President Philip Glotzbach, and said with a twinkling eye, “We expect big things from you!” As if on cue to help guarantee that, Joe Bruno ’52, majority leader of the New York State Senate, announced a state grant of $4 million for the center, “a fine facility that will greatly benefit a wide community.” Those funds nearly complete the construction portion of the Zankel project; another $12 million is still being raised for its operating endowment.

Glotzbach thanked the Zankel family, Bruno, and many other supporters, including the Filene and Ladd families (retiring trustee Bob Ladd and incoming trustee Bill Ladd ’83 were at the event), longtime supporters of music at Skidmore. Their legacy will continue in the new building, whose major concert hall will be named in their honor.

The event closed with a flourish of Magic Markers as donors, dignitaries, and guests signed their names on the steel I-beam, to symbolize their own steel-clad support for the new music building.

Parents boost learning-disability services

“Students with cognitive disabilities can be very successful college students and contributing members of society,” declared learning specialist Lydia Block at a recent campus conference organized by Skidmore’s disability specialist Jamin Totino and supported by Skidmore parents Steve and Maribelle Leavitt.

The Leavitts’ son Jonathan ’06, who has mild learning disabilities, proves Block’s point. But his success was hard won, because few services were available to him on campus. Maribelle Leavitt says, “Jonathan’s professors were wonderful, negotiating with him about test-taking formats, in order to measure his knowledge in whatever way worked.” She and her husband were so pleased with Skidmore, she says, that they pledged $500,000, funded by a grant through the Simcha Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund—and since disability services was “an area that just needed tweaking,” they directed the first $100,000 of the gift to help develop a comprehensive program for students with learning disabilities.

Totino—whose office serves more than 100 students—soon started polling students and faculty members to get a clear sense of “the prevailing perceptions and knowledge of learning disabilities.” With the new funding he has also consulted with other colleges and attended workshops regarding the latest best practices, from assistive technologies to inclusive, nonstigmatizing language. Totino says the gift is “a terrific opportunity for the college to engage in meaningful investigation of, and honest reflection on, our campus culture, our services, and the academic and personal development of our students with disabilities.” And he’s eager to implement new initiatives in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Leavitt was delighted by President Philip Glotzbach’s conference statement that students with disabilities don’t need different standards, just different ways to demonstrate their achievement of them. “Recognizing each student’s particular capabilities—it’s so Skidmore!” she says.

Mellon Foundation grant for Tang teaching

Skidmore has received a $1.7 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in support of interdisciplinary learning through the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery. And the gift’s impact will be nearly trebled, because $1.2 million of the grant is contingent on an ambitious three-to-one match program: Skidmore must raise $3.6 million from other donors for this project by May 31, 2013. A successful match will result in a $4.8 million endowment to consolidate and expand on the college’s recent Program in Object Exhibition and Knowledge, which helped faculty build expertise in museum-based teaching that taps the power of objects, artworks, and artifacts to engage the intellect and the eye.

According to President Philip Glotzbach, the Mellon gift represents “an extraordinary endorsement” and will “foster provocative inquiry across all academic disciplines.”

The funds will bring two new staff members to the Tang. An associate curator will work with faculty on co-curated exhibitions, assist with student projects, and organize events and internships. An assistant registrar will help faculty use the museum’s permanent collection and access its digital resources.

Funding will also go toward curatorial stipends, travel and study expenses for faculty co-
curators, and support for faculty to develop new curricula integrating Tang exhibitions and collections. Finally, the grant will fund audiovisual documentation and commentary, including interviews with curators and scholars, plus high-resolution 360-degree photography of the exhibitions. An earlier Mellon grant enabled the digital recording of objects in the Tang’s collection, soon to be accessible through the college’s ArtStor database.

Nurturing young scientists early

Research with a faculty mentor is a great asset on any science student’s resume. Skidmore offers summer support for several student-faculty research teams, but demand is outstripping the funding. Now help is at hand: trustee Sara Lubin Schupf ’62 has established a $1.1 million scholarship fund for student research.

The Schupf Scholars Program focuses on science, technology, and mathema-tics, and pays special attention to interdisciplinary projects and to female students in fields where women are underrepresented. Each year the scholarships will provide five students with up to $10,000 each for research with a faculty partner starting in the summer after their freshman year. Why so early? Because “science is a learning process where one question often leads to another, so you need to allow time for the process to develop—and for the mentoring relationship to develop,” Schupf says. Besides, she notes, some of today’s Skidmore applicants have already done scientific research and are eager to continue.

Along with living expenses and stipends to support summer research, the Schupf program offers additional funds—for such needs as traveling to conferences or buying research materials—to help students pursue their research into or through their sophomore year. And Schupf Scholars are eligible for extended funding to continue their work through their junior and senior years.

Schupf hopes to inspire, cultivate, and support students’ interest in science, because she sees it as an excellent avenue for exercising critical thought and shaping the progress of an idea from theory to practice. She says, “This is what a Skidmore education is all about—getting involved in the process of discovery, which includes the satisfactions of success, failure, and mentorship.” More broadly the Schupf program seeks “to help light an accessible pathway to science research and science career preparation.”

With such an early start on intensive research, and continued work into their junior or senior year, these Schupf scholars will be well equipped to move on to graduate or professional school in the sciences. —SR