Like many children of faculty members, Mary Lou Montonna Williams '50 took advantage of the University's free tuition benefit. The opportunity could not have come at a better time: In 1946, she was just about to start college when her father, a University of Minnesota professor, was "talked into coming to Syracuse" by then-Chancellor William Pearson Tolley.
      "I always felt I owed the University something," says Williams. So she and her family established the Dr. Ralph E. Montonna Fund for the Teaching and Education of Undergraduates, named in honor of her late father, a 1916 graduate of The College of Arts and Sciences.
      Williams gave a major gift to establish the fund in 1997; her daughter and son—Suzanne Williams Vary and Mitchell R. Williams—have also given substantially to support the endowment.
      "Mary Lou and her late husband, Dale, have always shown a profound respect for university scholarship and learning," says Robert McClure, senior associate dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. "Their gift will support the work of faculty who are leading the team-teaching in Maxwell's introductory multidisciplinary citizenship course. Such an outcome for their gift fittingly captures the commitment of Mary Lou and her family to the work of both faculty and students."
      Williams had planned a bequest to Syracuse. The recent sale of the family business—Williams Oil Company Inc. in Remsen, New York, started 70 years ago by her father-in-law—gave Williams and her husband the idea of immediately supporting their alma maters. "I wanted to do something to remember my father, who really enjoyed students," she says. "Dean McClure and I believed that this initiative would fulfill that desire."
      The Montonna Fund will begin its work once the endowment reaches $100,000.


Great universities are made great by their alumni, and one goal of the Commitment to Learning campaign has been, in the words of Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw, "building bridges to you, our alumni."
      With that in mind, the University's "embassy" in Washington, Greenberg House, launched a newsletter this January. Syracuse in DC provides alumni news and a calendar of events—at Greenberg House and elsewhere—for alumni in the Greater D.C. and Baltimore area. More than 9,000 alumni receive the newsletter, along with nearly 800 parents of SU students.
      "Alumni connections can enrich both your work life and personal life," Chancellor Shaw wrote in the inaugural issue. The University wants to encourage alumni to network as well as maintain ties to their alma mater.
      A short hop to the north, in New York City, Lubin House also hopes to enhance alumni connections. Its newsletter will soon expand in content and increase in frequency.

courtesy of dorothy chapman saunders
Research biologist Dorothy Chapman Saunders '34 and husband George out, literally, in the field.

The founders of Syracuse University could never have envisioned, in 1870, the University as it exists today, but they had enough foresight to know the fledgling institution would need financial assistance after they were gone.
      Jesse T. Peck, George Comstock, J.F. Crawford, Eliphalet Remington, and Francis Root, five of the most visible founders, made the University's first "planned gifts"—gifts fully realized only after the donors died. The Founders Society, established in 1990, honors and recognizes those who make such commitments today. Some of the University's most significant gifts come from alumni and friends who remember Syracuse in their wills. In addition to bequests, the Founders Society recognizes commitments made through other deferred forms of giving such as gift annuities and charitable trusts.
      During the Commitment to Learning campaign, $42.2 million has been pledged through bequests and gifts of life insurance; another $6.7 million has been committed through charitable trusts and gift annuities. The University has also received $37.5 million from estates.
      Founders Society member Dorothy Chapman Saunders graduated from Syracuse in 1934. She went elsewhere for her graduate degrees in biology, but it was at Syracuse, where she'd come for journalism, that "they put me in front of a microscope, and I never left." Her education here gave her an edge over her peers in graduate school at the University of Michigan.
      An athlete, outdoorswoman, and pilot, Saunders taught biology for a time before becoming the first female research biologist for the Department of Agriculture's Agency of Foreign Agricultural Relations. Long assignments during World War II took her to experimental stations in Central America. The United States was interested in growing crops to replace those that could no longer be accessed from the East Indies. "You never knew what you were going to do," she says. "It was fascinating."
      She met her husband, George, also a research biologist, in 1947. She continued researching, traveling, and publishing until the early seventies. Now in her 80s, Saunders wonders how to rid her house of the accretions of books and decorations. She reads a great deal, and studies genealogy.
      "I gave to SU annually for years," she says, "even when I couldn't afford much." She has given two gift annuities that provide her with income now but will be available for the University's use upon her death; she's also made a provision in her will for a bequest to support scholarships at Syracuse for needy biology students.
      "It wasn't the easiest, attending college during the Depression," she says. Scholarships helped her stay at SU, where she was president of the Women's Athletic Association, played sports year-round, and found her calling in a required class.
      "I've been lucky," she says. "Luck is taking advantage of your opportunities."
      To discuss planned giving options with the University's Office of Development, contact Andrea Latchem at 315-443-2135, or

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