Substantial Gift Will Restore Historic Buildings and Expand Programs at UVM
- By Rick Green
A $5 million gift from class of 1964 graduate Jack Silver and his wife Shirley will ensure the restoration of two Victorian-era jewels on the University of Vermont campus while also expanding scholarly research and programs for alumni.
The commitment, which ranks among UVM’s largest donations in recent years, supports improvements to the Billings Library and renovations at the planned Alumni House, designed to be a hub of activity and educational programs for graduates and their families.
“This generous gift places us on track to finish two of my highest strategic investment priorities -- the renovation and restoration of two architectural masterpieces on the University of Vermont campus, the Billings Library and the future Alumni House on Summit Street,’’ said President Tom Sullivan, who announced the gift at a reception Wednesday evening sponsored by the University of Vermont Foundation and hosted by the Silvers at their New York City residence.
“Upgrading these iconic buildings will dramatically enhance UVM’s exceptional learning environment, boosting our reputation in the decades to come,’’ Sullivan said. “Jack and Shirley’s gift will transform Billings, the gemstone of the campus designed by H.H. Richardson, into a new home for the University’s Special Collections Library, which will be renamed the Jack and Shirley Silver Special Collections Library.
“Billings will become a new intellectual focal point, with much of the historic interior remaining open to the public. In its new and expanded location, The Silver Special Collections Library will continue to build a national reputation as a repository for historic archives, political and literary papers, rare books and photographs,’’ Sullivan said. “Significantly, Billings will also become the home for two academic centers essential to our scholarly DNA – the Carolyn and Leonard Miller Center for Holocaust Studies and the Center for Research on Vermont,” Sullivan said.
Silver, an investor with an accounting degree from UVM, said he was attracted by the university’s clear strategic plan for the future. Fundraising efforts for the projects will continue, with other major gifts expected. Billings library, located on the University Green, was constructed in 1885 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“I am supporting the dream of the current president of the university, Tom Sullivan, who feels so strongly about the meaning of these two projects,” Silver said. Billings Library “is symbolic of the university itself. UVM’s special collections will be preserved for scholarly work. That’s just one of the reasons I chose to make this gift to the University of Vermont.”
Silver said he sees UVM’s first Alumni House as “a catalyst to bring people together and create a home that people can come back to. I really support President Sullivan’s vision about what is important to the university right now.” The Alumni House’s pavilion will be named the Jack and Shirley Silver Pavilion.
“The Alumni House is a project that will be the glue that ultimately creates a center where people who have graduated can gather and successfully continue their relationship with the university,’’ Silver said.
The Alumni House will be home to a variety of programs that reinforce UVM graduates’ lifelong relationship with the institution, from hosting educational, cultural and artistic activities to offering rooms to gather in for social and reunion activities. It will serve as a first-stop for alumni arriving on campus. The facility will also host conferences, weddings and banquets.
Restoration of the ornate interior of the Queen Anne Revival-style house, once the home of the Delta Psi fraternity and purchased by UVM in 2007, will begin immediately. Fundraising for the project will continue, with an opening planned for the fall of 2015.
A member of the UVM Foundation Leadership Council, Silver is also a former member of the Foundation’s board of directors.
Silver, who will attend his 50th reunion later this year, said he came to UVM in the fall of 1960 unsure about what he wanted to do with his life.
“What happened at the university is I became interested in learning. Since that point in time I have been motivated to achieve,’’ Silver said. “The university was very much a part of that.”