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Orr pledges help for students
with $3m for scholarships
June 21, 1999

More than six decades ago, Sumner A. Dole, then dean of men at the University of Connecticut, helped a farm boy from West Suffield with a scholarship. Now the man that boy became is repaying the favor many times over.

Samuel J. Orr Jr., '40, '61 J.D., has committed $3 million to endow The Samuel J. Orr Scholarship Fund. The Orr Scholarships will be available to deserving public high school graduates from the towns of East Granby, Granby, Simsbury, Windsor Locks, Windsor, South Windsor, East Windsor, Enfield, Somers, Ellington, and Orr's hometown, Suffield.

"When I arrived at the University of Connecticut, we were just getting through the Depression. Things were not very rosy financially for a great many people," Orr says. "I managed to get enough to pay for my first year's tuition, but I didn't have enough to cover the second year."

In stepped Dole, with an offer of a scholarship to help cover Orr's tuition. Between the scholarship and his part-time job working in a University dining hall, Orr was able to cover the cost of attending UConn. Orr says Dole, a professor of physical education who also coached football, basketball and baseball, was very much on his mind when he decided to make this gift.

"I think he was sympathetic to a country boy who was trying to get ahead," Orr says. "He did similar things for many, many others. He was a wonderful man.

"It was important to me and my future that Dean Dole did what he did," adds Orr. "I'm hoping that I can help others."

"Scholarship support is key to maintaining accessibility if the University is to meet its commitment to educating all qualified students regardless of their financial resources," says Edward T. Allenby, vice president for institutional advancement. "Sam Orr's wonderfully generous gift will help future generations of UConn students to achieve their dreams and ambitions in much the same way that Sumner Dole helped him."

After graduating from UConn, Orr attended graduate school at the University of Kentucky, studying agricultural economics. After the United States entered World War II, he joined the Army as a second lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps, serving in the U.S. and the Pacific. After five years in the service, where he reached the rank of lieutenant colonel, Orr returned to Connecticut, working first for the UConn Agricultural Extension Program and then for the Shade Tobacco Association and the Connecticut- Massachusetts Tobacco Cooperative.

At the urging of his long-time friend Edward Kuehn, '40, '48 J.D., Orr started attending night classes at the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1957. The two men ended up practicing law together for many years in West Hartford, before Orr started a solo practice in Suffield. Orr and Kuehn also served as probate judges in Suffield and South Windsor respectively.

Along the way, Orr found time to marry and raise a son, a daughter and three stepchildren. His daughter, Patricia Orr-Smith, is also a UConn graduate. He also became a restaurateur. In partnership with his stepson, Orr founded the Bugaboo Steakhouse restaurant chain, which was sold to another steakhouse chain in 1996.

For all his success, Orr remains devoted to the friends he made at UConn so long ago. "I had a group of friends that I'm still very, very close to, like Ed Kuehn, Harry Archambault, Henry Hanson - who died a few years ago - Walt Burr, Walter McKinney and the late Jack Walker," he says. "Most of us get together in Florida every winter now. Retirement isn't so bad."

Orr and Kuehn also played on the men's soccer team, and in 1997, Orr donated $100,000 to support the men's and women's soccer programs.

Orr says the associations and friendships that began for him at UConn are another reason he decided to make this latest gift. "I wanted to give children from rural areas an opportunity for the educational experience I had."

Gary Frank