Wilson College alumna makes $2.3 million gift to library project

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 Herald-Mail

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Wilson College has received a $2.3 million gift to the Reimagining the John Stewart Memorial Library fundraising effort from Wilson alumna Sue Davison Cooley.

Cooley’s gift will net the college a total of $4.6 million under the terms of a matching gift provided last year by another Wilson alumna, Marguerite Lenfest of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., and brings the total raised for the library project to $9.6 million in cash and pledges.

“Mrs. Cooley’s extraordinarily generous gift is exciting for many reasons. Perhaps most critical is that it brings us closer to our goal of having 80 percent of total costs in hand before we break ground on the Stewart library project,” Wilson College President Barbara K. Mistick said in a news release.

The college is in a $12 million fundraising effort to repair and restore the original 1924 library building, while razing a 1961 addition and replacing it with a contemporary learning commons equipped to meet the changing needs of today’s learning communities.

It will house academic support and information technology services, writing labs, two “smart” classrooms, a commuter lounge, bookstore and outdoor plaza.

The learning commons also will house the “Sue Davison Cooley Gallery” in honor of Cooley’s transformational gift.

Cooley, who attended Wilson from 1940 to 1942, said the college holds a special place in her heart and she is glad to help with a need as significant as the library.

“The gift is in recognition of the fact that I love Wilson very much,” Cooley said in the release.

“I am a very, very big fan of Wilson. I think it has much to give for women, and men too. It’s a great place.”

Cooley, who lives in the Portland, Ore., area, is a longtime supporter of the college. She donated $1 million in 2005 to establish a scholarship for participants in the Women with Children Program in honor of her old friends and Wilson alumnae Sylvia Scalera Davison and Mary Meinecke Dee, both with the Class of 1944. She has also been a regular contributor to the college’s annual fund.

Cooley said she is particularly interested in the library and making sure students have additional places on campus for convening and quiet study.

Wilson’s library building has been closed since fall 2011 due to a heating system failure. Its functions have been relocated to the lower level of Lenfest Commons.

The design phase of the library project has been completed and the Wilson College Board of Trustees voted Feb. 21 to authorize the preparation of construction documents and the demolition of the library annex.

Construction, which is expected to take about 14 to 15 months, could begin as early as July or August, according to Wilson Vice President for Finance and Administration Brian Ecker. “Our goal is to have the library re-opened for fall 2015,” he said.

It took Wilson just one year to match the $3.6 million Lenfest gift, which was broken into three, $1.2 million matching elements. Prior to the Lenfest gift, Wilson had raised $2.4 million for the project.

“The deep commitment of our alumnae and alumni to their alma mater and to this project is gratifying,” Mistick said. “And as the college moves forward with our Wilson Today plan to revitalize the college, we have continued to experience wonderful support from those closest to the college.”

Originally founded as a women’s college in 1869, Wilson College is taking a number of steps through the Wilson Today plan to transform itself into a thriving liberal arts institution, including adding programs in the health sciences and other areas, expanding coeducation across all programs, creating a value proposition to lower tuition and repay up to $10,000 in federal loans for qualified students, and improve infrastructure.