Communities thrive on many sources of nourishment: economic opportunity; wise leadership; consistent effort. But there is another factor that pushes communities toward greatness, and it is not insignificant: generosity. The gifts of successful donors can lift an enterprise to a higher level, benefiting not only the recipient of the gift, but an entire region, as well.
So it is with two gifts that were in the news last week – one for a museum and the other for a university in Western New York. Peggy Pierce Elfvin, a longtime board member of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, made an $11 million bequest to the museum – believed to be the largest such gift in the museum’s history.
The money will help bolster the museum’s operating endowment and help to ease chronic deficits over the past decade. Specifically, the gift will permanently endow the position of Albright-Knox director, a post that will now be known as the Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director.
Meanwhile, in Lewiston, leaders of Niagara University officially opened the B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences. Golisano, the former owner of the Buffalo Sabres and founder of Paychex, contributed $10 million of the $32 million cost of building the new center.
That gift was announced five years ago and, on Wednesday, its influence was on display. The center will not only help attract students to the Catholic university, but professors, as well.
Golisano is well-known for this generosity and, while much of it is centered on the Rochester region – home of Paychex – he is well-known in this part of the state for buying the Buffalo Sabres when the team was at risk because of the legal troubles of the Rigas family.
Golisano has since sold the team, but with his donation to Niagara University, his name will have a permanent place in the region.
So will Elfvin’s. Buffalo’s cultural life, in all its many facets, is a key to the city’s durability, even through hard times. The city’s museums have played an important role in its civic life, and none more than the Albright-Knox.
Elfvin, who died a year ago, had long been devoted to the museum’s success. In the 1950s, she served as a public relations assistant for the gallery. Later, she ran popular tours as a volunteer and for 30 years – from 1975 to 2005 – was a member of the museum’s board. Now, she will be remembered as the supporter who helped bring stability to an important component of the city’s life.
With these gifts, she and Golisano showed themselves to be exemplary members of the communities that make up Western New York. Both, too, are examples of the truism that Golisano expressed well on Wednesday:
“The only wealth you get to keep is that you give away.” Lucky for Western New York that they want to give it here.