Kent State graduate donates $1.1 million to fund university museum


Patter Beldon and her granddaughter Gretchen Parker visit the On The Home Front, Civil War exhibit at the Kent State University Museum on October 1, 2011. Photo by Amy Loomis.

Lyndsey Schley

An alumnus has donated $1.1 million to the Kent State University Museum.

Gerald Schweigert, a graduate of the College of Business Administration, donated the largest cash donation in the museum’s history, museum director Jean Druesedow said.

“When it comes to us, it will be part of our endowment, and that will help sustain our operating costs,” Druesedow said. “The museum is funded only in part by university funds. I think it’s about 62 percent of our costs, and most of that is staff salaries, so the exhibitions that we mount and the care and feeding of the collection and a lot of things like that have to come from endowment funds and from private gifts.”

The donation will raise the endowment fund from $2 million to $3.1 million.

In a way, the donation is a gift to an old friend. When museum founders Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman came to Kent to start the museum and school, Schweigert owned the Inn at Kent, formerly on Main Street. As patrons of the establishment, Rodgers and Silverman formed a friendship with Schweigert, Druesedow said. When Rodgers later moved to Kent after Silverman’s death, their friendship resumed. Schweigert even took care of Rodgers towards the end of his life.

“That was just an extraordinarily generous thing to do,” Druesedow said.

Druesedow said the goal of the donation was to sustain his friends’ legacy.

“(Schweigert) felt that (Rodgers and Silverman) had given their entire estate, really, to found the museum and the fashion school and to perpetuate it, but they didn’t have any money left,” Druesedow said. “They gave us a collection worth $5.4 million at the time. That was, at that time, in 1981-82, the largest collection, the largest gift in kind the university had ever received. So that was quite substantial, but it did not include an endowment. So the endowment has been raised over the years through the Office of Institutional Advancement, and at this point in time, (Schweigert) wanted to add to that, really to make sure that (Rodgers and Silverman’s) contribution to the university was sustained.”

Schweigert declined an interview.

The donation is in the form of a deferred annuity, Druesedow said. The university will invest the money for the donor during his lifetime and supply him with a return, which many people use as a form of retirement income. At the end of his life, the money will go to the museum.

“A deferred annuity is a really useful thing for people to think about and plan for,” Druesedow said. “Most of us don’t like to plan for our retirement, but it’s not a bad idea.”

Druesedow said a gift like this shows people have faith in the museum and want to help sustain it.

“I’m just so thrilled and grateful,” Druesedow said. “I think it’s just wonderful. It’s just something that will make such a difference.”

Contact Lyndsey Schley at [email protected].