AKRON University of Akron officials announced Thursday the pending receipt of the largest gift in university history — a donation of more than $20 million.
It's from the estate of Jean Hower Taber, a longtime community volunteer, philanthropist and great granddaughter of a founder of the Quaker Oats Co.
According to a news release from the university:
About two-thirds of the money will support scholarships for honors students and students in audiology. The remainder will underwrite maintenance for school's Hower House — the Hower family mansion offering exhibits and programs to the public — and programming supporting the University’s mission.
“It’s amazing how many dreams of a college education this tremendous gift will help make possible,” said President Matthew J. Wilson said in a statement. “This will have an immeasurable impact on dozens of lives each year, as a new group of Hower Scholars will come to the University each and every year in pursuit of their goals.”
“Jean Hower Taber provided gifts to the University of more than $7.7 million during her lifetime,” said Kim Cole, UA’s vice president of development and executive director of the UA Foundation. “We never imagined her generosity would reach this historic level. In fact, this bequest is currently one of the 25 largest gifts received nationally in public higher education in 2017.”
According to the university:
Taber did not attend Akron, but her grandfather was a graduate of Buchtel College, now the University of Akron. She was a devoted patron of the Hower House and its grounds, and fully supported her family’s decision to donate their 1871 Victorian mansion to the University in 1970. Taber was also a generous benefactor of student scholarships, and of academic initiatives including the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology program and Zips athletics.
“There is a history of the Howers being very civic-minded, and I think that was ingrained in Jean,” said Claudia Hower, Taber’s sister-in-law. “She was a volunteer at the Natural History Museum for 19 years. She volunteered at the Society for the Blind and taught people how to knit. When she was in her 80s she was delivering meals on wheels to people in Chagrin Falls.”
It is expected the first Hower scholarships will be awarded to students for the fall 2019 semester.
More than 2,200 students from Stark, Carroll and Tuscarawas counties are enrolled at the university.