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Alumna's generous gift pushes VCU Libraries campaign forward

January 27, 2017

Portrait of board chair and donor Stephanie Holt
Alumna Stephanie Holt

Virginia Commonwealth University alumna Stephanie Lawson Holt (B.S. ‘74/Ed) has included a $335,000 planned gift in her estate plan to benefit three passions that she also sees as pillars of the community and the university: the libraries, teaching and the arts.

Her gift will be split proportionally among VCU Libraries, the School of Education and the Institute for Contemporary Art at the Markel Center.  

“This incredibly generous gift also comes at a pivotal time for us,” said University Librarian John E. Ulmschneider. “Her pledge moves us much closer to meeting the challenge of a $1 million matching grant from The Cabell Foundation. Thanks to Stephanie’s far-reaching vision for students, the VCU Libraries now needs to raise $250,000 by June 30, 2017. She has set an inspiring example for everyone who understands the central role of libraries in academic life.”  For an update on the Cabell Match. 

"Scholarship endowments are a priority of the School of Education. We very much appreciate the fact that not only has Stephanie established a new scholarship last fall, but she has the vision to expand the fund with this gift to help our students well into the future," said Andrew Daire, Ph.D., dean of the School of Education.

Stephanie Holt is also a friend to the Institute for Contemporary Art. “Her gift will ensure the future of student engagement at the ICA by helping to endow paid internships and fellowships,” said Director Lisa Freiman. 

A logical next step

For Stephanie Holt, her gift is a logical next step on a progressive journey of engagement with VCU.

She is the 2016-18 president of the Friends of VCU Libraries Board. She is an active member of the VCU community, serving as president of the School of Education Alumni Council, as a member of VCU Alumni’s Monroe Scholars Book Award Committee and as a member of the VCU Alumni board of governors. She is a Life member of VCU Alumni. She was recognized by VCU Alumni as the VCU School of Education Alumni Star in 2005.

Holt retired from Xerox Corp. after 32 years’ service. Before her career in business, she taught high school business education for five years in the Richmond Public Schools.

She credits her education at VCU in the turbulent early ’70s as lifechanging.  A transfer student from Longwood College, she thrived at VCU.

“VCU allowed you to grow in whatever way you wanted.  You could be liberal, radical or conservative.  You could be totally involved or uninvolved. I loved that about VCU at the time, and I love that to this day. I really am glad to see young people expressing themselves again. That stage of your life, you need to get involved politically; you need to find your passions within the community to help others. That’s what VCU means to me.”

Her education and life experiences at VCU, she said, helped her decide the kind of person she wanted to become. “VCU helped me figure out not what I wanted to do with my life but what I wanted to be, the kind of person I wanted to become.”  And that was caring, involved, a volunteer, a giver.

“I’ve always wanted to improve people’s lives. I think that is what lead me to become a teacher and even when I changed careers and joined Xerox in sales I was more of a consultant and helped organizations to determine what they needed rather than just making a sale,” she said. “At Xerox I was the chairperson of our Community Involvement Program for 31 years, which gave money and time to various groups.  I was also a loaned executive to Junior Achievement for six months.  I love the things that help to improve the lives of everyone–education, the arts and libraries.”

An option for many donors

Holt’s gift is designed to support her biggest passions at VCU. The idea for making a planned gift first formed when she attended an VCU Alumni board of governors meeting about a year ago.  Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Marti Heil talked about stretching yourself in your giving to VCU.

“Marti’s talk really moved me. A lot of people don’t realize that they may have the means to do more if they make VCU a priority in their philanthropy. I started thinking then, and I’ve been contemplating this ever since. Since I don’t have children, and my siblings, niece, and nephews will receive a portion of my estate; I decided that I wanted to give back to VCU.  A percentage of what I have in retirement savings, in my annuities and IRAs, is what I was able to do. This is an option for a lot of people.”

VCU Libraries director of development and major gifts Kelly Gotschalk (B.F.A.'90/A; M.A.'97/A) explains the ease of planned giving.

“With a planned gift, you know with absolute certainty that your resources will go exactly where you designate them and be managed respectfully with the highest standards of stewardship,” she says. “It really is a legacy to the next generation and beyond.”

What’s next for Holt?

Looking forward to years of continuing activism at VCU, she hopes to challenge VCU alumni to dig deeper and do more.  

“We as alumni need to start giving back to our university at a much greater pace than we’ve done in the past. We need to help these young people who need more scholarships and great libraries to make their life at the university better. I think VCU alumni have to do a better job at this.”

* * *

To learn more about planned giving, contact Doug McCartney, J.D., executive director of gift planning, at (804) 828-5563 or


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