A family narrative
A couple’s gift inspires future generations.
When Queens College, New York, professors Vineta Blumoff Colby and Robert Colby, AB’41, AM’42, PhD’49, planned a bequest gift to the University, they did so rather quietly. The two scholars—Vineta in English literature and Robert in library science—devoted their lives to Victorian culture and literature, publishing numerous books and articles and using the subject as the central theme for their overseas travels. There is even an award for Victorian-periodical-themed books named after them.
The Colbys have strong UChicago connections. Robert and his older brothers Eugene, PhB’31, JD’33, and Bernard, PhB’33, grew up in Hyde Park. With no children of their own, after Robert’s death in 2004 and Vineta’s death in 2010, nieces Marilyn Colby Rivkin and Sue Colby, who both attended the Laboratory Schools, were tasked with settling their aunt and uncle’s estates, which designated support to the Humanities and the College, areas they supported during their lifetime.
“Aunt Vee and Uncle Bob believed in giving unrestricted gifts to institutions they believed in—mainly universities, libraries, and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art,” says Marilyn. “They trusted that the University of Chicago would use the money well.”
Their estate gifts, Marilyn says, motivated the entire family. “They came from modest means, so their philanthropy has truly inspired my sister and me to follow their pattern of giving,” she says. “And although our aunt and uncle weren’t into being publicly honored in any way, they would love the idea that their gifts might be used to encourage others to do the same.”
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