Wednesday, October 22, 2014

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U.Va. Women’s Center Receives $3 Million Gift from Alumna

The University of Virginia’s Women’s Center has received a $3 million gift to support its programs from 1951 alumna Maxine Platzer Lynn – the largest donation in the center’s 25-year history.

“This gift will make our future come alive,” Women’s Center Director Sharon Davie said. The endowment will bolster the center’s core programs, which emphasize leadership and related learning, she said; it is otherwise unrestricted.

The Women’s Center’s mission is to “educate U.Va. students in how to create change in self, community and the world by providing programs and services that advocate gender equity,” its website says.

Davie said Lynn told her she is pleased there is a Women’s Center, and is proud of how far the University has come since it began to admit women to all of its schools in 1970. Lynn was enrolled in the Curry School of Education, which did admit women, but also took many courses in the College of Arts & Sciences that are still important to her today, she said.

Lynn’s daughter, Julie, also graduated from U.Va., earning a bachelor’s degree in politics in 1988 and a J.D. from the School of Law in 1992. A Hollywood film producer and owner of Mockingbird Pictures, Julie Lynn is a board member of the Virginia Film Festival. Her new film, “The Face of Love,” will be screened at this year’s event on Nov. 9.

Wayne Cozart, vice president of development and director of the Jefferson Trust, said he has known the Lynn family since Julie came to U.Va. “Maxine Lynn was a female student at the University when there were few women role models,” he said, “and the support she received from the Dean of Women while she was here helped her to become a resilient, confident person. She believes that the Women’s Center now provides the same type of support for this generation of women at Virginia.”

Women’s Center programs include the Young Women Leaders Program and other leadership activities; Counseling Services and the Eating Disorders Education Initiative; Sexual and Domestic Violence Services; the Women, Girls and Global Justice program; and Iris, a Web magazine for young women. Another program for boys and male U.Va. students, the Men’s Leadership Project, is on hiatus this year, but will start again next year.

The programs involve students, faculty and staff in community-based research, teaching and service in Charlottesville, across the country and around the world. The programs aim to advance collaborative learning through courses, workshops, distinguished lecture series and other educational events and programs that shed light on issues ranging from gender-centered peace-building to women’s empowerment groups in the developing world.

Students can become interns or volunteer to work for the center. This year, 38 students are participating as interns, which requires them to take a three-credit fall semester course, “Women, Peace and Justice,” taught by Women’s Center faculty member Jen Merritt, and participate in academic community engagement initiatives in the spring.

Although college and university women’s centers vary in terms of how they’re organized and what they offer, it is rare for such a center to receive a gift of this magnitude, Davie said.

While the University provides funding for most salaries, the Women’s Center relies on grants and gifts to support its programming. This makes donations of all sizes important, she said.

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