A first for Fine Arts: a faculty chair

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Grace Merritt

3 min read

The Shivers family recently made a bequest to endow a faculty chair at the UConn School of Fine Arts, the first in the school’s history.

The Rhoda Shivers Chair in 19th Century Art will honor the legacy of the family’s matriarch, Rhoda, who was deeply involved in the arts at UConn.

The family—Jay, Jed, and Sandra Shivers—wants to preserve her legacy, enrich UConn students’ lives, and help ensure that the School of Fine Arts continues to thrive.

Rhoda Shivers first discovered art in elementary school during a class trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

“Almost immediately, she was drawn to Impressionist art, which was augmented on a trip to Paris and its environs,” says Rhoda’s husband, Jay, a retired UConn professor and supervisor of Recreational Service Education as well as a generous donor to UConn.

A woman with many interests and boundless curiosity, Rhoda later took some art courses at UConn. To show her appreciation, she later established the Rhoda Shivers Award in the Arts, which has provided scholarships to more than 40 students across the School.

As a business teacher at EO Smith High School, Rhoda had a profound impact on the lives of many of her students, a fact that her son, Jed ’81 MBA, says he didn’t fully realize until after she died in 1989.

“Hundreds of people came to her memorial service,” he says. “Over and over, people told me ‘You know, your mother changed my life. I was going in one direction, and I talked with her, and she told me ‘Here’s what you should think about doing.’ And it changed my life.’’’

“I hope in the days and years and decades to come that whoever is teaching in the Rhoda Shivers Chair in 19th Century Art is going to be someone that will matter to people, will inspire people, will make a difference, and will continue to make sure the School of Fine Arts thrives,” says Jed, who is vice president for finance and operations/chief operating officer at the University of North Dakota.

School of Fine Arts Dean Anne D’Alleva says the new chair will have a transformational impact on teaching and research within the school and across the university.

“This gift will help us shine a light on all of the most powerful elements of 19th Century art from experimentation with new forms and media and cross-cultural exchange, and the rise of technology in the arts to new opportunities for women and people of color in the arts,” she says.

“This gift is an investment in creating the next generation of artists, art historians, curators, and creative thinkers. It will build on and expand the research strength of the art history program and engage students at all levels—from the general education curriculum to graduate students. This is truly a wonderful tribute to Rhoda Shivers, who believed so passionately in the power of the arts to engage hearts and minds.”

Jed and his wife, Sandra—who holds a doctorate from Stanford University in the School of Education with a focus on Administration and Policy Analysis in education—also share a passion for the power of art education.

“We think it’s extremely critical to not only enrich students and enrich people who see the arts, but as a way of enriching society,” Jed says.

He also pointed out that making a named, planned gift also is a great way to establish a legacy for yourself or a loved one, he says.

“I really strongly believe that people like us sort of toil in anonymity all our lives,” Jed explains. “We’re not here to make a big splash. We don’t necessarily make tons of money. But there is a way for people like us to be memorialized for future generations. If you’re thinking along those lines, then the most logical way to do that is to make a gift to a university.”

For more information on making a named gift, contact Greg Knott, Assistant Vice President of Development and Principal Gifts at giftplanning@foundation.uconn.edu or call (860) 336-1468.

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