University of Akron President Matthew J. Wilson today announced the pending receipt of the largest gift in University history—more than $20 million from the estate of Jean Hower Taber, a longtime community volunteer, philanthropist and friend of UA.
About two-thirds of the gift will support scholarships for honors students and students in audiology. The remainder will underwrite maintenance for UA's Hower House—the Hower family mansion offering exhibits and programs to the public—and programming supporting the University's mission.
Video: Who is Jean Hower Taber?
Jean Hower Taber's estate left more than $20 million to The University of Akron. The greatest portion of the funds will go to student scholarships. Recipients will be called Hower Scholars.
Today's announcement of the planned gift—from the estate of the great-granddaughter of a founder of the Quaker Oats Co.—stunned the crowd at The University of Akron Foundation's annual meeting, just as it surprised UA officials when they learned of the amount.
"It's amazing how many dreams of a college education this tremendous gift will help make possible," said President Wilson. "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."
Taber did not attend UA herself, 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 UA 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."
Taber received an honorary doctorate from The University of Akron in 2004.
Several Hower family members attended the UA Foundation annual meeting for the gift announcement.
It is expected the first Hower scholarships will be awarded to students for the Fall 2019 semester.