Largest Cash Gift Ever Made to Kent State University Museum

The Kent State University Museum has received a $1.1 million donation – its largest cash gift ever – from local business leader and Kent State alumnus Gerald Schweiger

The Kent State University Museum has received a $1.1 million donation – its largest cash gift ever – from local business leader and Kent State alumnus Gerald Schweigert. The donation, in the form of a charitable gift annuity, will be instrumental in the preservation and future support of museum collections and activities.

A longtime donor to Kent State whose past contributions include a Medallion Scholarship for a deserving fashion student, and a gift to Intercollegiate Athletics, Schweigert is a native of Copley, Ohio, who graduated from Copley High School and is a 1955 graduate of Kent State's College of Business Administration. He currently resides in West Akron. His ties to the university were further strengthened over the years by his business links to Kent State – he owned several local hotels – and by his long friendship with Shannon Rodgers, who with Jerry Silverman, donated the fashion collections that founded the museum.

“Shannon left a wonderful gift with his collection, but no endowment fund,” Schweigert says. “I’m just trying to do my part to keep the legacy going.”

“Jerry’s gift will enable the museum to continue the great legacy that Schweigert’s friends, Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman, left us,” says John Crawford, dean of the College of the Arts at Kent State. “Thanks to Mr. Schweigert’s generous donation, we’ll be able to maintain and expand the programming of the Kent State University Museum for years to come.”

Schweigert was personally involved when Silverman and Rodgers first came to Kent State and the fashion school/museum project was coming together in the early 1980s. He was particularly adept at hospitality and making everyone feel welcome and at home.

“Every Friday night people would come in from New York, like Bob Mackie (known for costuming entertainment icons such as Cher, Diana Ross and Tina Turner), Pauline Trigère (known for her crisp, tailored cuts and innovative ideas), and Princess Michael of Kent (an Austrian-Hungarian member of the British Royal Family),” Schweigert says. “I became very good friends with many of them, and entertained them in Kent and at my home in Palm Beach.”

When the museum space was created in the former university library in Rockwell Hall, the original Silverman-Rodgers collection consisted of 4,000 dresses, 1,000 decorative pieces and a 5,000-volume reference library. Today, the museum has some 30,000 dresses and 10,000 decorative pieces. Many of the artifacts are stored in climate-controlled facilities in the area.

According to Steve Sokany, Kent State’s senior associate vice president for Institutional Advancement, the museum has had to turn down offers of additional pieces for the collection because of a lack of appropriate storage space.

“Recognizing how much Silverman and Rodgers meant to Jerry, this leadership support is very special and will ensure that the museum continues to thrive and grow,” Sokany says.

Schweigert plans to continue his support of Rodger’s legacy. Furnishings, china and artwork that belonged to Rodgers, and are currently under Schweigert’s care, will eventually revert to the museum and add to the commitment he has already made. “The museum is my number one philanthropic focus,” Schweigert says. “And I’m not through yet. I know Shannon would be happy to know that I’m helping out the museum.”

Gene Finn, vice president for Institutional Advancement at Kent State, adds, “As a Kent State graduate, Mr. Schweigert’s generous gift sets an example for all our alumni. His support will be meaningful for future generations of students. That’s a great legacy, as well as an important contribution to historical preservation.”

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POSTED: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 12:00am
UPDATED: Friday, April 17, 2015 - 3:32pm
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