PLATTSBURGH — Phyllis Wells passed away at 82 roughly a year ago.
The bulk of her estate went to Plattsburgh State, making it the second largest gift from an alumna in the university’s history.
The $470,000 donation from the former librarian is second only to the estate gift from Olive Mason Flynt, a former employee who gave $1 million to Plattsburgh State in 2007.
Wells earned her Master of Science in elementary education from Plattsburgh State in 1957, saying she lived her life at the school and built her career there.
“She spent her whole career with us,” said Vice President of Institutional Advancement Anne Whitmore Hansen. “She enjoyed her work and took great pride in her connection with the college. When she informed me of her intention to support the college so generously, she commented that ‘it was simply the right thing to do because the college gave her so much.’”
Wells joined Plattsburgh State as an assistant librarian in 1957 and received several promotions while there. She became a senior assistant librarian in 1979 and an associate librarian in 1987, the same year she retired.
“Phyllis was an extremely determined person,” Hansen said. “She would regularly share her progress toward meeting her philanthropic goal. She delighted in imagining the impact she would have on students and the library.”
Much of her gift will support the Phyllis Wells Endowed Scholarship, a fund that is unrestricted.
The rest will go to the Wells Endowment for Special Collections in Feinberg Library to support the preservation of rare and archival materials related to the North Country, Plattsburgh State and New York state.
Wells enjoyed special collections and continued to volunteer after her retirement.
She had been studying local churches in order to write a book on their history and gave some of her notes to the archives. She also donated other historical materials, including information on covered bridges, Clinton County historical markers, ghost towns and post offices.
“We’d talk for hours about local history and her book,” said Debra Kimok, associate librarian in Special Collections. “Phyllis was very detail-oriented and was getting quite proficient using a computer, something that wasn’t easy for her in the beginning, but which she was determined to figure out.”
Wells also published the “Subject Index to the Clinton County Portion of the History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, N.Y.”
“It was a huge success,” Kimok said.
It was published in 1880 and until Wells created her index there was no easy way to locate specific subjects.
She donated all sales and proceeds from the “Index” to Special Collections.
“Her impact on the college as both an employee and a volunteer was already significant,” said Plattsburgh State President John Ettling, “but with this gift, Phyllis will continue to make a difference, especially for our students who need financial support more than ever.”