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Alumna Makes $2.3 Million Gift to Library

Posted: February 27, 2014

Wilson College has received a $2.3 million gift to the Reimagining the John Stewart Memorial Library fundraising effort from Wilson alumna Sue Davison Cooley, a Portland, Oregon, area philanthropist.

Feb. 27, 2014
CONTACT: Cathy Mentzer, Manager of Media Relations
Phone: 717-262-2604

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Wilson College has received a $2.3 million gift to the Reimagining the John Stewart Memorial Library fundraising effort from Wilson alumna Sue Davison Cooley, a Portland, Oregon, area philanthropist.

Cooley’s gift will net the college a total of $4.6 million under the terms of a matching gift provided last year by another Wilson alumna, Marguerite Lenfest of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., and brings the total raised for the library project to $9.6 million in cash and pledges.

“Mrs. Cooley’s extraordinarily generous gift is exciting for many reasons. Perhaps most critical is that it brings us to our goal of having 80 percent of total costs in hand before we break ground on the Stewart library project,” said Wilson College President Barbara K. Mistick. “I want to express gratitude on behalf of everyone at Wilson to Mrs. Cooley for investing in the future of the college and helping make our plans for a comprehensive, state-of-the-art library a reality.”

The college is engaged in a $12 million fundraising effort to repair and restore the original 1924 library building, while razing a 1961 addition and replacing it with a contemporary learning commons equipped to meet the changing needs of today’s learning communities. It will house academic support and information technology services, writing labs, two “smart” classrooms, a commuter lounge, bookstore and outdoor plaza.

The learning commons also will house the “Sue Davison Cooley Gallery” in honor of Cooley’s transformational gift.

Cooley, who attended Wilson from 1940 to 1942, said the college holds a special place in her heart and she is glad to help with a need as significant as the library.

“The gift is in recognition of the fact that I love Wilson very much,” Cooley said. “I am a very, very big fan of Wilson. I think it has much to give for women, and men too. It’s a great place.”

Cooley is a longtime supporter of the college. She donated $1 million in 2005 to establish a scholarship for participants in the Women with Children Program in honor of her old friends and Wilson alumnae Sylvia

Scalera Davison and Mary Meinecke Dee, both with the Class of 1944. She has also been a regular contributor to the college’s annual fund.

Cooley is particularly interested in the library and making sure that students have additional places on campus for convening and quiet study.

Wilson’s library building has been closed since fall 2011 due to a heating system failure. Its functions have been relocated to the lower level of Lenfest Commons.

The design phase of the library project has been completed and the Wilson College Board of Trustees voted on Feb. 21 to authorize the preparation of construction documents and the demolition of the library annex. Construction, which is expected to take about 14 to 15 months, could begin as early as July or August, according to Wilson Vice President for Finance and Administration Brian Ecker. “Our goal is to have the library re-opened for fall 2015,” he said.

It took Wilson just one year to match the $3.6 million Lenfest gift, which had been broken into three, $1.2 million matching elements. Prior to the Lenfest gift, Wilson had raised $2.4 million for the project.

“The deep commitment of our alumnae and alumni to their alma mater and to this project is gratifying,” Mistick said. “And as the college moves forward with our Wilson Today plan to revitalize the college, we have continued to experience wonderful support from those closest to the college.”

Originally founded as a women’s college in 1869, Wilson College is taking a number of innovative steps through the Wilson Today plan to transform itself into a thriving liberal arts institution, including adding programs in the health sciences and other areas, expanding coeducation across all programs, creating a value proposition to lower tuition and repay up to $10,000 in federal loans for qualified students, and improve infrastructure. An updated library configured to meet expanded enrollment will be an important component of Wilson’s revitalization.

For more information, contact Wilson College Manager of Media Relations Cathy Mentzer at 717-262-2604 or


Founded in 1869, Wilson College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college offering bachelor’s degrees in 25 majors and master’s degrees in education, the humanities and accountancy. Wilson is committed to providing an affordable education that offers value to its students beyond graduation.

Located in Chambersburg, Pa., the college has a fall 2013 enrollment of 662, which includes students from 20 states and 14 countries. Visit for more information.

Last Updated: February 27, 2014