Ella Nash Stories

Skipper and Ruth Knights Surprise College with Large Bequest

When the mail arrived one afternoon in September 2018, there was nothing to suggest that it included the first distribution of an unexpected six-figure bequest from two Allegheny icons who had died almost 20 years earlier. Staff were stunned to learn that the late Ruth E. (Williams) Knights, longtime associate dean of the college, and her late husband, Professor of History Paul A. “Skipper” Knights, had left half of their estate to Allegheny College. Those who studied at Allegheny from the late 1940s to the early 1980s rarely fail to mention this early power couple who met, married and shared their lives with countless students and faculty for more than three decades. It was deeply moving to learn that their final mark on the world would come to Allegheny in the form of a $352,000 unrestricted bequest.

Neither Ruth nor Skipper had a formal Allegheny connection before their employment. Skipper arrived in 1947 with a brand new Ph.D. in American history from the University of Iowa, and Ruth followed two years later, degree details unknown. They had completed their undergraduate degrees at Hobart College (Hobart and William Smith College) and Carroll College (Carroll University), respectively, and those two institutions share the other half of the couple’s estate. Allegheny College Historian, Professor Emeritus and honorary alumnus Jonathan Helmreich writes that Professor Knights and Dean Williams, popular young employees, were frequently asked to chaperone dances. Knights would squire Williams to events, and they later said that “it would be ‘simpler’ if they just got married.” In 1954, they did. 

The Class of 1957 dedicated its yearbook to the couple whom it said symbolized its Allegheny experiences. The editors wrote: 

As a team, this couple works together for the sole objective of guiding the Allegheny student in his social and academic growth at college. The whole-hearted interest and devotion that they display in the student’s welfare increases the respect which they command. Dr. and Mrs. Knights bring together the many phases of college life and present a picture of the whole school.

Mrs. Knights, as Associate Dean of Students, acts as a liaison between the student and faculty in the interest of further understanding and cooperative relations. Her keen insight and gracious presence at student or faculty gatherings makes her a stabilizing force behind all that goes on in the college.
Dr. Knights … represents the strength of close student-faculty relationships. As an advisor to the Block A Club, a fraternity group, and to individual students, Dr. Knights has shown an unfailing interest in the student’s welfare.

Outstanding as individuals, Dr. and Mrs. Knights, together represent the finest of Allegheny.

“Outstanding as individuals, Dr. and Mrs. Knights, together represent the finest of Allegheny.”

In planning their gift, Skipper and Ruth named each other as the sole beneficiaries of their estates. Skipper died two months before Ruth, so it is her will that facilitated this gift. She established a trust through her will to benefit a family member with the proviso that after that person’s death, the balance would go to the three colleges. This is not an uncommon scenario, as many people desire to support both loved ones and their favorite charities through their estates. 

For more information on ways that you may use your will and/or retirement accounts to provide for your loved ones and beloved charities, please contact Melissa Mencotti, Director of Gift Planning, at (866) 332-3853 (toll-free) or (814) 332-6519, or visit allegheny.giftplans.org.

The Annual Fund Grant program provides promising, talented young scholars with access to a life-changing education. Without donors like you, the Allegheny experiences you value would be out of reach for many of these deserving students. You can be part of shaping students, like Emily, who will go on to change the world.

Philanthropy in Action: Emily Rice ’21

“One of the best experiences that I have had at Allegheny was being able to go to Italy over the summer for an Experiential Learning trip. I was able to learn basic Italian and learn about the culture on a three-and-a-half-week journey there. Going on this trip has given me the travel bug, and I cannot wait to see where my next adventure takes me. Because of your generous support, I can have all these fantastic experiences and an even better education. Thank you so much.”

Emily Rice ’21
Psychology major
Education Studies minor

Golden-aged Retiree is a True-blue Alleghenian

Nancy Sheridan (center, in red) and former scholars. (Photo by Bill Owen ’74)

When Nancy Sheridan finally retired from Allegheny in 2009, she was 80 years old and had worked here for 42 years. She had tried to retire earlier, but the College kept finding projects that were perfectly suited to her — and only her. This longtime director of student support services and her late husband, Professor Emeritus Jim Sheridan ’50, developed deep friendships with students and faculty along the way, frequently hosting them in their Henry Street home for spirited conversation.

After arriving in 1964, the mother of three immersed herself in the extended Allegheny community and became involved with the Allegheny College Association (ACA), a group of so-called “faculty wives” who met for social and philanthropic pursuits. Nancy, a psychometrist, began working at the College in 1967. One of the first to be honored with Allegheny’s Robert T. Sherman Distinguished Service Award in 2000, Nancy is still engaged with the Allegheny and Meadville communities.

The ACA persuaded Allegheny administrators in 1972 to establish a scholarship program for non-traditional female students – women aged 25-plus who had graduated from high school but had not completed a college degree. They formed a subcommittee to raise funds to supplement the College’s contributions, recruit students, and provide empowering support for the women. A committee of staff, faculty and past recipients remains active today. 

Scholarship recipients may take up to 12 credits per year (typically three courses) free of charge. They have the same access to College resources as traditional students, and they receive a stipend of $300 per course to spend how they see fit. Scholars may also receive support for a second or third year of study through additional donor funds. A few women have gone on to earn undergraduate degrees. Nearly 150 ACA scholars have joined the Allegheny community over the decades, and Nancy has cheered each one of them along. The scholarship was renamed in her honor in 2012.

Gator Gals gather in fall 2019

Nancy’s work with the ACA complemented her decades-long and continuing involvement on the board of directors of Women’s Services, Inc., a local nonprofit organization that provides supportive counseling, advocacy, and emergency housing and services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other crises. 

Nancy and a similarly engaged colleague, Linda Allison Palmiero ’66, P’92, worked together for many years at Allegheny. When Linda and a group of her friends who’d met 50-plus years ago in Brooks Hall — they call themselves the Gator Gals of 1966 —  gathered last November to celebrate their 75th birthdays, Jeanne Whitney Smith proposed that they  each donate $75 to honor Allegheny College and to celebrate the induction of Dr. Hilary Link as its first woman president. The women readily agreed and were thrilled when Linda told them about the Nancy Sheridan ACA Scholarship. Says Smith, “The Nancy Sheridan Scholarship was chosen for its focus on the Allegheny experience of changing lives.” Linda presented Nancy and Allegheny College with a collective gift for the scholarship from the 30 friends in December.

It is no surprise that Nancy, whose adult life has been and remains shaped by Allegheny, once said, “Frankly, I think education is one of the most important parts of people’s lives.” In addition to supporting the scholarship, Nancy and friends also established the James F. Sheridan, Jr. Memorial Fund to provide support for students and faculty in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Allegheny. This golden-aged friend of the College is a true-blue Alleghenian.

A Special Message

As this issue goes to press, we are living and working in a landscape that looks vastly different than it did just weeks ago. Campus is quiet as faculty provide coursework and instruction to students via remote delivery, and staff and administrators work from home to keep the College moving forward. We take — and hope we provide — comfort in our routines as we focus on the time that students once again walk the halls, faculty lecture and lead labs, music tickles the ivories in the practice rooms, friends and classmates cheer on teams, and the campus teems with life. We send this newsletter in that spirit, and in the hope that you enjoy reading about Ruth Knights, Nancy Sheridan, and the Gator Gals of 1966 who have shaped and supported Allegheny and who inspire us to build upon their legacies for students like Emily Rice ’21.

Allegheny Alumna Provides Support for First-Generation Students

When Norma Klaus Wible was growing up, her father owned and operated a gas station and repair shop in Willowick, Ohio, where he put in long hours. As a youth in the Depression, he had not gone past eighth grade because he had to work to help support his family.

Norma’s mother immigrated to the United States from Slovenia when she was 6 years old, and learned English quickly so she could become the family’s translator. She finished high school and went on to become a radio operator during World War II. She eventually enjoyed a career as a realtor and travel agent.

“She always insisted I could be anything I wanted to be,” Norma recalls.

In 1973, Norma graduated from Allegheny College, the first in her family to earn a college degree. She followed that with her master’s in education in 1974.

 “When I made the decision to go to Allegheny, my father simply said he and my mother would do what it took to get me there,” Norma says.

“If I can offer just one person a bit to offset that financial concern, then I’d like to do that in honor of my parents’ generosity.”

Now, after working as a teacher in the Cleveland area and raising a family with her husband, Jim, a 1971 Allegheny graduate and a member of the College’s Board of Trustees, Norma has been, and is currently, immersed in volunteer work. She was heavily involved in the local Montessori school, has taught Sunday school, coached junior high academic challenge teams, and is active in the Maumee Valley Presbytery.

She also has given back to make sure other first-generation college students have the same opportunity she did at Allegheny. 

Besides other family scholarships endowed at Allegheny, Norma independently established the Joseph and Fran Klaus Scholarship, a fund that provided scholarship support for women who are first-generation students at Allegheny. The scholarship is named in honor of her parents.

“First-generation students don’t have the luxury of knowing what to expect when going off to college and sometimes the money involved plays too large a part,” says Norma. “Sometimes that bottom line makes the decision for the student. If I can offer just one person a bit to offset that financial concern, then I’d like to do that in honor of my parents’ generosity.”

Norma says she is trying to develop the philanthropic spirit among young people. “We need to help children at a young age to be generous,” she says, “and if we must, teach college students the same thing. It helps if they can see the need and empathize with the people who benefit from the cause. While I think it’s great that high school students are encouraged to show volunteer hours on a college application, it may simply be a box checked off that possibly won’t change what they do down the road. I think it’s important to talk with youth, and get them to reflect on those experiences and what resulted from them.” 

Norma and Jim have three adult children, including Judson, a 1999 Allegheny graduate; Jerry; and a daughter, Leslie, who lives in England.

Link and Feeley Usher in New Era

It’s a special moment in Allegheny’s history as Hilary L. Link, Ph.D., and Mary “Missy” Feeley ’78, Ph.D., assumed the College’s top leadership positions as president and chair of the Board of Trustees, respectively, on July 1. While neither considers their femaleness to be their defining trait, it is worthy of note that this is the first time that the Allegheny president is a woman and only the second time that the trustees are led by a woman. With authors from academia to pop science maintaining that women do lead differently than their male counterparts, we look forward to supporting the fresh perspective and purpose they bring to engaging all of us in fulfilling Allegheny’s mission. The future looks bright.

Hilary L. Link, Ph.D.

Hilary L. Link, Ph.D.

Mary “Missy” Feeley ’78, Ph.D.

Mary “Missy” Feeley ’78, Ph.D.

The Data Is In: Women Give Differently Than Do Men

We developed The Ella Nash Society newsletter to focus on the special gifts of time, expertise, personal connections, and assets that shape women’s philanthropy. Our goal is to provide educational information to help Allegheny alumnae and female parents and friends make informed decisions about their own philanthropy. (Hello, male readers. We appreciate your interest!) Why a women-centered newsletter? With unprecedented access to education, fulfilling careers, and financial resources, women have become a powerful force for change and growth in the nonprofit sector —and the way that they give can dramatically differ from men.

Women’s philanthropy initiatives were established in the U.S. about three decades ago. The first program in higher education was started at the University of Wisconsin in 1988 by Sondra Shaw-Hardy and Martha Taylor, who later wrote Women & Philanthropy: Boldly Shaping a Better World (2010). Shaw-Hardy and Taylor were the first academics to study contemporary women and philanthropy. They and others have identified key characteristics of women’s giving:

  • Philanthropy is personal. Women generally like to be engaged with the organizations they support, and they value the personal relationships that they develop.
  • Women often learn about opportunities for volunteering and financially supporting organizations  through other women. 
  • Relationships, trust, and “doing good” are more important motivators to women than are income tax considerations and peer pressure.
  • Women like to collaborate and leverage their funds, making gifts collectively with others for greater impact.

Research is also showing that across income levels and generations, women are more likely to give, and to give more, than their male counterparts. 

We have also found this to be true at Allegheny when comparing giving data over a recent five-year period for single male and female donors. We found that:

  • There were 1.5 women donors to every one male donor overall
  • Double the number of women supported the Annual Fund or documented bequest intentions 
  • The ratio of women to men funding charitable gift annuities and trusts was almost 3:1
  • And single women’s lifetime giving was double that of single men

A predicted historic transfer of wealth to women from parents and spouses is occurring now, and economists predict that about $59 trillion in assets will pass from Baby Boomers to their children over the next 25 years. Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy estimates that women will inherit 70 percent of this so-called Great Wealth Transfer. Women currently control more than half of the wealth in the U.S. ($14 trillion) and could control two-thirds or more of it by 2030 as a result of the transfer.

You likely have, or will have, opportunities to influence charitable gifts, and it is important that you know how to best use your assets to do good. To learn more, contact Melissa Mencotti at (814) 332-6519, write us at giftplan@allegheny.edu, or visit our website at allegheny.giftplans.org

Planning Tip

Writing a check or making a gift by using your credit card may not be the most advantageous way for you to support your favorite causes. Giving stocks and bonds, real estate, and other personal property that has grown in value since you got it will provide you with an immediate federal income tax deduction   and will eliminate your taxable gain on the amount that you give to charity. See “Ways to Give” at allegheny.giftplans.org for more information.

Philanthropy in Action: Graduate Hopes to Pay it Forward

May 2019 graduate Colten Buzard got his start in digital marketing in 2016 with an internship supported by the George Andress Taaffe Jr. Endowed Fund for Economics. The fund was established in memory of Mr. Taaffe ’68 by his widow, Natalie Davis Taaffe Hoffman ’68, and close friends, John ’59/P’92 and Nancy Watkins Dunham’ 64/P’92.

Colten held a number of summer and school-year jobs and internships in his field—some overlapping—while majoring in economics, minoring in communication arts, playing defense on the Gators football team, and serving with the Andover, Ohio, volunteer fire department. Now employed as a digital marketing consultant and software developer, Colten would like to give back by, as he writes, starting “programs in my hometown to help bright young kids who don’t have many opportunities,” noting that “there were many times where I could have used mentorship and support.” 

We have no doubt that Colten will be a terrific role model, just like George, Natalie, John, and Nancy before him.

Philanthropy Leads to Life-Changing Research for Allegheny Senior

Senior Megan Arnold will receive her bachelor’s degree from Allegheny College in May and continue to pursue her dream of becoming an oncologist and cancer researcher.

Megan, a biochemistry major and psychology minor from Burton, Ohio, has enjoyed a stellar undergraduate academic career, punctuated by valuable cutting-edge research experiences during her four years, all made possible by generous alumni and other benefactors.

After her first year at Allegheny, Megan immersed herself in a two-month summer research experience studying the physiology of muscle contraction with Allegheny alumnus Anthony Hessel ’12 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Megan’s trip and expenses were funded by the Christine Scott Nelson ’73 Faculty Support Fund and the William S. Demchak ’84 and Debbie Demchak Student Internship Fund.

“It was intimidating coming to work in a lab like this, but once I got there I realized that my time at Allegheny had undoubtedly prepared me for this exciting challenge,” Megan says. “I was honored when one of my mentors complimented me on my work ethic and my willingness to take on new challenges.

“I knew this was a mindset I developed from the rigor of my coursework during my first year. It was rewarding to see the outcome of the work ethic and dedication I developed at Allegheny as a result of the endless support from my mentors and professors. They made me feel that no goal was unreachable, and they constantly encouraged me to hold myself to a higher standard.”

Doane Hall of Chemistry and Steffee Hall of Life Sciences

As a first-year student, and again in her sophomore year, Megan earned a PNC Bank Scholarship that helped defray her tuition costs at Allegheny. This current academic year, Megan received the John D. Wheeler Scholarship (John ‘61 and Margaret Wheeler), which follows a summer at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, studying a potential treatment for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

Says Megan: “I wanted to be in a place where I could tell someone, ‘I have big dreams for myself,’ and hear them say, ‘That’s the way it’s supposed to be, and here’s how you can achieve them.’ I can say with complete conviction that Allegheny is this place. It is everything I could have ever wished for in a college and more.”

Megan continues to excel at Allegheny. She is the head resident advisor at Ravine-Narvik Hall, serves as a Sustained Dialogue moderator, volunteers at the Grounds for Change coffeehouse, mentors students in first-year seminars and chemistry and molecular biology courses, and plays on the Ultimate Frisbee team. In 2018, Megan received Allegheny’s Helping Hand Award, given to the student who exemplifies the ideals by which Brian Grogan ’99 lived his life: leadership, commitment, spirituality, respect for others, and personal sacrifice. She will graduate Phi Beta Kappa.

After graduation, Megan hopes to continue her education and eventually conduct research at the National Cancer Institute.

“My experience at Allegheny has been deeply impacted by the philanthropic acts of many different alumni and organizations,” Megan says. “Without their generosity and commitment to education, I wouldn’t have been able to attend Allegheny, which means I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I am looking ahead to continuing to pay it forward throughout my life by using the knowledge I have gained here in service of other people, and one day donating to support future Allegheny students.”

Philanthropy in Action

Grounds for Change (GFC) is Allegheny’s volunteer and student-run coffeehouse. Located in the Campus Center, GFC provides a space for socializing, studying, intellectual discussion and debate, and community and campus events. Under the leadership of a 15-member board, GFC supports environmentally sustainable practices including purchasing organic, fair trade, and locally grown and produced products. We hope that future alumnae leaders are “percolating” among the GFC volunteers!