When U.Va. alumna Maxine Platzer Lynn (Curry ’51) asked for tips on how to handle some off-color comments from young men in her undergrad classes, she got “[…] the best advice for that day and time: ‘Ignore it!’”
Lynn recognizes how much has changed at U.Va. since then: “Today, I feel that the University is more egalitarian, particularly in that it gives women, as well as men, the ability to pursue their dreams. […] If you have the desire to do something, go for it!”
Her personal desire for “[…] the Women’s Center [to] continue with their mentoring and their outreach to all students, irrespective of gender” has inspired Lynn to give a $3 million endowment, the largest gift in the Center’s 25-year history. The Center held a celebratory event, in honor of Lynn and the Center’s 25th anniversary, which took place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 at the Fralin Art Museum.
Lynn graduated from U.Va. in 1951 from the Curry School of Education, before undergraduate women were admitted in 1970 to all schools in the University. She arrived at U.Va. as a 19-year-old married student, and found out during her senior year that she was pregnant with her first child – in the same building that now houses the Women’s Center.
“As a female student who would receive a B.S. in Education, I was an anomaly,” Lynn said, as she had also taken many courses in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Yet I was treated with great respect and felt very welcome in class. Extraordinary professors were then, and continue to remain, at the heart of the University experience.”
During her time at U.Va., Lynn was active in a variety of programs such as Hillel and the Interfaith Council. She subsequently volunteered to teach English as a second language to the diplomatic corps in Washington, D.C., and was honored with a grant from the National Conference of Christians and Jews to participate at the National Training Laboratories in Bethel, Maine. Lynn believes her days in Charlottesville have given her an “adventurous spirit,” as well as interests in community beautification, competitive sport (golf), art and interior design, and traveling: She has visited every continent with her husband, Bernard.
She and her husband have already given back to the University community by contributing the hearing assist system to the Culbreth Theatre, as they “have enjoyed so many fine productions there.”
Her long-time relationships with Pat Lampkin, U.Va. Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer, and Wayne Cozart, Vice President for U.Va. Alumni Engagement, began in “the days when [her] youngest [child] was a student in the late 1980s.” Lynn appreciates the warm relationships that have developed over time with Lampkin and Cozart, which have led to other opportunities to support U.Va.
“Wayne [Cozart] and I had a terrific time refurbishing one of the Pavilions on the Lawn with appropriate art and antiques,” Lynn said.
Lynn said she ultimately wanted to underwrite an endorsement that would continue to have meaningful impact on the University. She sees the Women’s Center as having that impact.
“Aside from an education degree and many electives in the College, I believe that U.Va. gave me a great sense of community and of the importance of giving back.”
Diverse students from across Grounds work and learn at the Women’s Center through internships, mentorships, team- and skill-based learning, visiting scholars and activists, and academic courses that require action research and service.
“As far as my gift to the Women’s Center, I hope that it will give the Center some financial flexibility and security to pursue a range of services and offer them to the current and future classes of young people,” Lynn said.
These services include Counseling Services, which has trauma counseling for survivors of violence and Body Positive, the Eating Disorders Education prevention program, recognized nationwide. Other experiences at the Center include academic community engagement programs such as the Young Women Leaders Program; the Men’s Leadership Project; the Women’s Center Internship; the Women, Girls, and Global Justice program; the Iris publication; and Gender Violence and Social Change.
“I hope that the Women’s Center will continue to do the mentoring and outreach at which they’ve been so successful,” Lynn said. “The fine people on Grounds right now are the best judge of how best to make themselves available to all students, no matter their gender, in the furtherance of their aspirations as they study at the University and move out into the world.”
Story by Agnes Filipowski
Photos courtesy of Maxine Platzer Lynn