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Trustees step up as campaign leaders
Skidmore’s board has been moving and shaking recently, with the transition to a new chair and several notable campaign gifts.
Thomas funds for Zankel Music Center
The first trustee meeting of the 2008–09 academic year, in late October, featured a farewell to outgoing chair Suzanne Corbet Thomas ’62 and a welcome to Janet Lucas Whitman ’59 as the new chair. A campuswide reception and a trustees’ dinner were held to honor Thomas’s nineteen years of board service, including the past six years as chair. A group of colleagues, friends, and classmates created an endowed $300,000 fund that builds on her support for the Arthur Zankel Music Center, slated to open in 2010. In 2007 she and husband Charlie made
a campaign commitment of $1 million toward the new center and in particular to name its outdoor performance space, the Thomas Amphitheater. The new fund in her honor will underwrite ongoing operations and an annual concert at the Thomas Amphitheater.
The board cited Thomas’s “commitment, guidance, clarity of thought, and diplomacy” as an alumni volunteer and trustee. Thomas says she made lifetime friends in her very first hour as a Skidmore student—an instantaneous bond that’s grown steadily stronger over her years of service to her alma mater.
Regarding the Thomas Fund, trustee Polly Kisiel ’62 says classmates and friends were “delighted to support a gift that Sue and Charlie had already given.” She adds, “Sue is widely loved and respected for her capability to connect the world to Skidmore and Skidmore to the world, and to move us forward through challenging times.”
Sussman leadership for student housing
Trustee Donald Sussman and his family have committed $12 million as a lead gift toward new student residences to replace the aging Scribner Village apartments. Sussman is the parent of Emily ’04. An earlier gift supported the vegetarian station, named Emily’s Garden, in Skidmore’s dining hall.
President Philip Glotzbach called the new gift “a welcome vote of confidence,” particularly in a financial climate when major projects will be a challenge for Skidmore to fund. Sussman said, “Now, more than ever, it is important to show support for those institutions that make a difference in the world…. I hope that this new facility will be an important part of student life at Skidmore for many generations to come.” Glotzbach confirmed, “This is a project that we have needed to move forward for some time, and there is no question that we could not even contemplate this undertaking without the family’s support.” The lead gift is expected to help pique the interest of other benefactors to complete the project’s funding.
The Scribner Village replacement will cost approximately $33 million and provide rooms for an additional 100–200 students
to live on campus. Rochelle Calhoun, Skidmore’s dean of
student affairs, hopes the new housing “can accommodate spaces for health and wellness, and fit within the developmental arc from the traditional, shared residences we assign to first-year students to more autonomous, independent living options for our upperclass students.”
Sussman joined the board in 2004 and is vice-chair of its Budget and Finance Committee and Investment Committee.
Harris Lobby for Scribner Library
Former trustee Irving Harris and wife Selma have made a $250,000 campaign gift, and the lobby of Scribner Library has been named for them. Already the library contains a reading area named in memory of their son Jonathan ’76, who died in 1997. The Harrises are also the parents of Lisa ’79.
President Philip Glotzbach remarked that, given its academic and geographic centrality, it’s no wonder the library has several areas named by or for trustees. He said the Harrises “entrusted two of their three children to us for learning, and in turn Skidmore was guided by Irving’s sound judgment and counsel.”
During his 1977–90 tenure on Skidmore’s board, Irving Harris was quoted in Who’s Who in America, outlining a no-nonsense philosophy of philanthropy: “We must accept the fact that to achieve goals we must act and that there can be no progress nor honor without acceptance of responsibility, willingness to take risks, and decisiveness in actions for what we judge to be the common good.”
He certainly took action at Skidmore, notes former provost Dave Marcell, who spoke at the dedication. Marcell reminded the crowd that the Harrises’ previous gifts have ranged from stage lighting for Bernhard Theater to an endowed fund for student scholarships. He added that, having worked with Irving on the trustees’ Academic Affairs Committee, he “always appreciated why Presidents Joe Palamountain and David Porter so treasured Irving’s keen insights and advice.”
Ladd gift for music
Robert Ladd, trustee emeritus and representative of the Lincoln and Therese Filene Foundation, presented Skidmore with $1 million to support construction of the Zankel Music Center. The gift, part of a $2 million commitment from the Filene Foundation, is earmarked for the Zankel’s centerpiece concert hall, a 600-seat auditorium backed by a dramatic floor-to-ceiling window. The hall will be named in memory of Ladd’s mother, Helen Filene Ladd ’22, herself a longtime Skidmore trustee. Since the 1980s, one of the keystone buildings on the Jonsson campus has been the Filene Music Building with its Filene Recital Hall, also named for her. That building, near the site of the new center, will be renovated as part of the Zankel project.
The family also includes Helen’s grandson Bill Ladd ’83, currently a Skidmore trustee himself, and her great-grandson Christopher Ladd ’05. Tom Denny, professor and chair of the music department, has lauded the family and the foundation, saying, “Their wisdom and philanthropy thread throughout the history of the College and into its bright future.”
A longtime major benefactor of Skidmore music programs, the Filene Foundation earlier established Skidmore’s nationally competitive Filene Music Scholarships, as well as the Filene Concert Series and Filene Artist-in-Residence series. —SR