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  February 12, 2001

Alumni Couple Give $1.5 Million
for Chair in American History

James L. and Shirley A. Draper have a history of supporting the University of Connecticut.

They provided for the University in their estate plans, and made provisions to establish scholarships to UConn for students graduating high school in Litchfield County.

Now the Drapers are making a further commitment to UConn, with an endowment gift of $1.5 million to establish the James L. and Shirley A. Draper Chair in American History.

"My wife was particularly interested in history, particularly Colonial history," explains Draper. "We've always lived in an old home, we've always had antiques, and we've always belonged to the Historical Society."

The Drapers met at UConn, and both graduated in 1941. "We always thought highly of the education we received, and we had planned on leaving something for the University," Draper says. When his wife died in October, he decided to honor her memory by endowing the chair.

Ross MacKinnon, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, plans to appoint a prominent scholar to the new chair by the 2002-03 academic year. "This scholar will provide additional academic leadership that will improve the quality of both the undergraduate and graduate programs in history," he says. "The scholar will also enhance the intellectual climate of the entire College, particularly within the humanities."

Altina Waller, professor and chair of the history department, is excited about the prospects a chair provides. "This gift will enable us to further build on our already excellent program in early American history, which is now perhaps our strongest program and will certainly become even more impressive with the Drapers' generous endowment," she says.

While an undergraduate at Storrs, James Draper was an ROTC officer. Upon graduation in 1941, he entered the Army and fought in World War II. He returned to uniform for the Korean War, then remained in the Army for 22 years before retiring to enter the real estate and insurance business.

A few years later, Draper "retired" again to form a partnership that eventually would own and operate 23 FM radio stations, from Seattle to Miami. And even after he and his partner sold the stations, they retained the real estate, including the valuable transmission towers.

He and his wife eventually retired to their home state of Connecticut, and renewed their ties to the University. Through the Draper Charitable Foundation, they set up a scholarship to help needy students.

The new chair reflects their commitment to academic excellence at UConn.

Richard Urban