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A gift of more than $500,000 from the estate of Jane Atwood O’Connell has been used to renovate the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Polk Library’s 7,600-square-foot circulation area and lobby and to create an endowment for digital, educational and research materials. The bequest is the largest in Polk Library history and will impact the more than 1,100 students who use the library daily.

The library’s circulation area received new flooring, seating and lighting, two stand-up stations for catalog searches, a new circulation desk and upholstered benches. Meanwhile, the lobby, which will be renovated in January, will receive a facelift that includes new graphics and seating for students.

“The gift allows us to transform one of the busiest study areas of the library into a much better learning environment where students can comfortably work alone or in small groups,” said Library Director Patrick Wilkinson. “Meanwhile, funds from the endowment will help us provide students and faculty with the information that they need 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Generous gifts, such as the one from Jane O’Connell, help Polk Library support student and faculty success.”

O’Connell was a member of the Rose Legacy Society, UW Oshkosh Foundation’s planned giving organization, which recognizes friends that include the University in their estate plans. She attended classes at the Oshkosh State Teachers College from 1931-1934. During her time as a student, she joined the Alethean Society, one the school’s oldest sororities. She was also a member of the French Club and was elected to the Athletic Committee despite not being an athlete in the Girls Athletic Association. O’Connell was also an active member of the Alethean alumni group.

“Mrs. O’Connell’s gift is a wonderful tribute to the education she received at the University,” said Arthur H. Rathjen, president of the UW Oshkosh Foundation. “By creating this endowment and giving funds to renovate Polk Library through her estate plans, she has created a lasting legacy that will have a tremendous impact on future generations of UW Oshkosh students.”

Although they had no children of their own, Jane O’Connell and her husband, Andy, ran a toy store in Dayton, Ohio, for nearly 20 years before they retired to Florida.

Photos by Jaslyn Gilbert.