April 20, 2015

Gifts: Gemologist Gives $13 Million to Natural History Museum

James Di Loreto, Smithsonian Institution

Visitors examine bones in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History's new interactive science learning center.

A roundup of notable gifts compiled by The Chronicle:

A retired University of Washington professor and gemologist, Coralyn Wright Whitney, has given the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History $13 million for its science education center, according to the institution. The center will be named for Ms. Whitney, and the money will go toward classes for school groups and educational programs.

Other new gifts:

  • Sylvia Poyta, a Queens, N.Y., comptroller who died in 2012, and her husband, Simon, a dentist who died in 2006, left roughly $20 million to the public television station WNET to fight anti-Semitism and promote tolerance, the broadcaster announced late last week.
  • The donation creates the Sylvia and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism and will support television and Internet programming.

    The bequest will be added to WNET’s $150-million campaign to build its endowment and shore up programming. To date, the campaign has attracted more than $90 million in donations.

  • Paul and Jan Varello pledged $13.5-million to Villanova University’s College of Engineering for the dean’s Strategic Initiatives Fund. Mr. Varello is chief executive of Sterling Construction Company, a construction company. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the university in 1965. The donation was the largest of four alumni gifts the university reported recently.
  • Timothy and Jayne Donahue gave John Carroll University $6 million for scholarships for current and future low-income students, the university announced last week. Mr. Donahue is former executive chairman of Sprint Nextel Corporation and former chief executive of Nextel Communications. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the university in 1971.
  • Lorna Ann Gavin, a Missoula, Mont., bookkeeper who died in 2013, has left $1.5 million to the Humane Society of Western Montana to endow the care of more than 200 homeless and displaced pets every year, according to The Missoulian.

To learn about other big donations, see our database of gifts of $1-million or more, which is updated throughout the week.