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Austin Chair to honor President's 11-year legacy

by John Sponauer - September 10, 2007

When President Philip E. Austin steps down after 11 years of leading the University of Connecticut, his legacy will include a refurbished campus, a five-fold growth in endowment, an increased reputation for academic excellence, national athletic success, and many other points of pride.

In addition, as a result of the generosity of donors and the efforts of the UConn Foundation, Austin’s name will live on through a new $1.5-million endowed chair established in his honor.

Officially announced on April 14 at the 2007 Founders Society celebration, the Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair will fund a highly visible faculty position, once approved by the Board of Trustees.

The drive to fully fund the chair is supported by some of the University’s most prominent donors and leaders, each of whom has worked closely with Austin during his historic tenure as the University’s president.

“Part of Phil’s legacy is, obviously, the physical transformation of UConn with the dramatic assistance of the state,” says John W. Rowe, M.D., chairman of the Board of Trustees and an incorporating donor of the Austin chair.

“But beyond the bricks and mortar, he has led the University to a much greater level of academic strength and enhanced pride. You simply can’t put a price tag on that. This institution today is a reflection of his vision and determination.”

Ray Neag, ’56, whose transformational gift of $23 million in 1999 marked a turning point for private giving to support the University, says Austin’s personal style of leadership has made the difference.

“We have a professional relationship that has grown into a friendship,” Neag says.

“It’s not often you can find a person with as many qualifications as he has, as a leader and a smart businessman, as well as someone who was adept at meeting the challenges that we faced. He’s moved us to a first-class position across the country.”

The chair will offer an opportunity to recruit a nationally recognized scholar and highlight the role that private giving plays in recruitment and retention of preeminent faculty.

“We’re at a crossroads today where we can grow the University even more, and we need private support to do that,” says Denis McCarthy, ’64, ’65, chairman of the UConn Foundation’s Board of Directors during much of Austin’s tenure.

He says the challenge of funding the chair with private funds illustrates the pivotal role that philanthropy plays in maintaining and enhancing UConn’s reputation for excellence.

McCarthy recalls “a profound speech” that Austin gave: “He said, ‘We – paid professionals – are only passing through the University, but its ultimate direction is determined by alumni and the community.’ He was absolutely right about that."

“It is critical that we maintain the level of quality education we’ve now risen to,” adds McCarthy.

“Phil has put us on the map, but it’s up to us to take it to the next level.”

Approximately $1.4 million has been raised to support the Philip E. Austin Endowed Chair.

The founding donors of the Austin chair include:

David ’61 and Trisha Barton
Peter S. Drotch ’64
Laura ’77 and Geo Estes
Mark Freitas ’81
Roger ’65 and Marjory ’66 Gelfenbien
Timothy ’75 and Beverly Holt
Robert Kaye ’58
John ’87 and Diane Kim
Gerald ’69 and Eileen Lieberman
Philip ’66 and Christine ’67 Lodewick
David Marks ’69
Denis ’64, ’65 and Linda McCarthy
Denis ’76, ’77 and Britta ’76 Nayden
Ray ’56, ’01H and Carole Neag
Michael J. Nichols ’05
Lewis ’54, ’57 and Kristine Rome
Jack and Valerie Rowe
Mark ’65 and Rosalind Shenkman
Wayne J. Shepperd
Richard Treibick
Judith ’77 and Henry Zachs

To support the Austin Chair fund, please contact John Martin, president of the UConn Foundation, at 860-486-2709.

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