Print Edition

  Email News Updates

Alum’s estate donates nearly $20 million to Syracuse University’s VPA schoo

By Eric Reinhardt


The estate of Dorothea Ilgen Shaffer has donated $19.8 million to Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). The bequest is the college’s “largest single gift ever,” Syracuse said in a news release recently posted on its website. (Photo credit: Syracuse University website)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The estate of the woman for whom Syracuse University’s Dorothea Ilgen Shaffer Art Building is named is making another financial donation to the campus.

Shaffer’s estate donated $19.8 million to the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA).

The bequest is the college’s “largest single gift ever,” Syracuse said in a news release.

Shaffer, who died in 2012 at the age of 101, graduated from Syracuse University’s School of Art in 1933. She was also an honorary member of the university’s board of trustees, according to the release.

Shaffer worked as a public school art teacher in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and founded Ilco, a commercial interior-design firm.

She and her lawyer-husband, Maurice, were longtime donors to Syracuse University. He died in 1997.

The Shaffers are perhaps best known for providing the lead gift of $3.25 million for the construction of VPA’s Dorothea Ilgen Shaffer Art Building, which opened in 1990.

The 95,000-square-foot building, located on the southeastern corner of the Kenneth A. Shaw Quadrangle on the main campus, “has brought together an array of artistic disciplines under one roof,” according to the release.

The latest donation will benefit “multiple” areas in VPA, notably the School of Art, School of Design and Department of Transmedia, Syracuse said.

It will also establish a scholarship for industrial and interaction-design majors, which is named for Shaffer’s mother, Katherine Adams Ilgen.

In addition, the gift will also “build” on the Shaffers’ existing support of talent-based scholarships, awards for graduate students pursuing master of fine arts degrees, professorships in art and art history, and visiting artists and scholars, Syracuse said.

“It’s a great day for Syracuse, as we celebrate one of the largest single gifts in the university’s history,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in the release. “The Shaffers’ incredible generosity will enhance support of faculty excellence, student access and opportunity, and academic programs across the college.”

Contact Reinhardt at

Thank You For Visiting