The Wheeler Society Celebrates a Silver Anniversary

by Margaret Popper

Alums of all ages gathered at the Melly Academic Center to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Wheeler Society, the Colleges’ recognition group for donors of planned gifts, during Reunion 2015.

The event marked a time for celebration and reflection on the enormous impact that alumni, alumnae, parents and friends have had on the long-term vitality of the Colleges and the significance for students past and present. The Wheeler Society has grown by more than 150 new members in just the last three years.

A group of panels mounted on a gallery wall of the Melly Academic Center told the story of The Wheeler Society: from its namesakes Amy and Schuyler Skaats Wheeler Sc.D. 1888, whose gift was realized in the late 1980s and provided the majority of funds for the renovation of Gulick Hall, to more recent gifts from benefactors including Robert North, Barbara Maynard Chilson ’69, Beatrice Stahl Biggs ’26, George Paulsen ’49 and Bill Scandling ’49 LL.D. ’67.

During the celebration, Board Chair Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09, noted: “It’s amazing when you think about it. More than 100 years have passed since the Wheelers established their gift, yet many of you here tonight benefited from that act of generosity.”

Columns within the Melly Center bore the names of more than 1,000 Wheeler Society members – some whose gifts have already made a lasting imprint on the Colleges, while others, including recent graduates, who have designated gifts that will be realized many years from now. What they all have in common is a tremendous commitment to the long-range health of the institution and to the students whose lives will be changed as a result of their thoughtfulness.

Sharlene Schmidt Vichness ’66 and Paul
Vichness ’65

In attendance that evening were Paul Vichness ’65 and Sharlene Schmidt ’66 Vichness who had just made a Wheeler gift that will support entrepreneurial studies summer internships.

“Paul and I have always maintained an active part of our lives around Hobart and William Smith. We met on campus more than 50 years ago, and as alums we have attended almost every Reunion of both our classes. The Colleges are part of us and we have participated in many capital initiatives like the William Smith Centennial project and the glorious performing arts center,” Sharlene says.

“Becoming a part of the Wheeler Society is a logical next step for us to give back to the place that was our beginning,” Paul adds. “We feel fortunate to have been able to craft a special and personally meaningful way of using our gift to help an aspiring entrepreneur to find a beginning and a launch pad to success.”

In his remarks, President Mark D. Gearan recognized the important leadership provided by Trustee Chair Emeritus L. Thomas Melly ’52, L.H.D.’02 and the late William F. Scandling ’49, LL.D.’67 – the “trailblazers” behind the formation of The Wheeler Society in 1989. He also thanked Trustee Chris Welles ’84 and Rene Whitney ’83 Welles P’12, P’15 who together chaired the successful 25th anniversary efforts.

Gearan closed the ceremony with appreciation for the Wheeler Society and its members.“Tonight we celebrate and honor those who have done so much to provide a bright future for our students and for the institution through Wheeler Society gifts. I appreciate that Hobart and William Smith has been – and continues to be – a priority in so many lives.”


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