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Class of ’56 creates endowment to support University archives

by Art Sorrentino - April 24, 2006

As the University of Connecticut celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, the Class of 1956 has chosen for its 50th reunion gift campaign a project with historical significance.

Members of the Class of 1956 gift committee, working with the UConn Foundation, have decided to create an endowment supporting the University Archives.

The fund is expected to generate income that will be used to gather, preserve, and provide access to historic University materials ranging from official documents to other objects of unique research and scholarly value, such as records of governance, policy, operation of administrative offices, programs, and publications.

The University Archives – in effect, the collective memory of the institution – was formally established in 1969, and in its first nearly 40 years has seen significant growth, development, and use by a wide range of scholars both from within and outside UConn.

Currently occupying more than 3,000 linear feet in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center and available through a combination of sources both in the reference room and online, the collection consists of thousands of University publications, periodicals, photographic images, and selected artifacts in a variety of formats.

Among the items are the original 1881 prospectus for the Storrs Agriculture School, as well as records of the different campuses, and the many academic departments, schools, and colleges, divisions, institutes, and centers.

Also included is a wealth of material covering the University’s student life, athletics, publications, plans and drawings of campus buildings, along with photographs of campus scenes, dances, graduations, students, and faculty.

“Coinciding as it does with the University’s 125th anniversary, the decision by the Class of ’56 is particularly inspired,” says Tom Wilsted, director of the Dodd Center.

“The University has a rich history that we strive to preserve and make available to a wide audience interested in learning more about the growth of a great public institution.”

Wilsted says proceeds from the endowment will enable the Dodd Center to acquire and provide access to original materials for research; promote wider knowledge, appreciation, and use of the Archives by students and scholars through outreach activities; and develop public programs, exhibitions, conferences, and other events.

Terri Goldich retrieves an item from the archives at the Dodd Center. The Class of '56 reunion gift will benefit the University Archives.
Terri Goldich retrieves an item from the archives at the Dodd Center. The Class of ’56 reunion gift will benefit the University Archives.
Photo by Peter Morenus

The Class of ’56 gift committee – including Ray Neag, Thomas Wolff, Lionel Olmer, and Bill Ratchford – has a long history of philanthropic and volunteer support for the University.

A goal of $125,000 has been set for the archives project.

“The gift to the University Archives is a great memorial for the Class of ’56,” says Neag.

“This wonderful resource preserves UConn’s past and perhaps offers a glimpse into the future. I urge everyone to experience it for themselves. You will come away as I did, excited by its potential and impressed by its execution.”

Wolff, co-chair of the committee with Neag, notes that he enrolled at UConn with the help of the GI Bill and two part-time jobs after the Korean War.

“It was a turning point in my life,” he says. “The class gift is a great opportunity to memorialize the past for future research.”

The fund-raising drive will be completed in time for Reunion Weekend in Storrs on June 2-3.

The festivities that weekend will include tours of the Dodd Center.

In addition, a commemorative plaque will be unveiled to acknowledge all those who have contributed leadership gifts to the campaign.

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