Mary Albert O’Neill bequeaths $1 million for fine arts wing at KC Campus

The Kaskaskia College Foundation will receive more than $1 million from the estate of a Vandalia woman to construct a fine arts building or a fine arts wing onto an existing building on the college’s Vandalia campus.

College officials announced the major gift from the estate of Mary C. Albert O’Neill at the annual meeting of the Kaskaskia College Foundation at the Centralia campus on Monday.

“We’re just elated,” said Dr. Jim Underwood, president of Kaskaskia College. “We are so grateful for her interest in expanding higher education in Vandalia.

“She made a substantial gift to the original Vandalia campus campaign, and now this gift will allow us to expand the fine arts program at the Vandalia campus.”

Underwood said that the design of the fine arts addition will be given considerable thought “so it will fulfill her intent.

“Whatever, we do,” he said, “we want to do it right. To fulfill her dream is our priority.”

He said that funding for the construction of a second building on the Vandalia campus is on the state’s priority list. But no funding has been appropriated.

A Vandalia native, O’Neill was 84 when she died on March 24.

She left half of her estate to the Kaskaskia College Foundation, with specific instructions that it be used for the fine arts project on the local campus.

A graduate of Syracuse University, she served in the U.S. State Department in embassies in a number of nations.

She also worked at the National Education Association.

She was an active supporter of several musical and cultural organizations in Washington, D.C., while she lived there.

Dale Timmermann, who served as a financial adviser to O’Neill, said that “she was impressed that the Vandalia campus would help local people advance themselves without having to travel to the Centralia campus.”

He said that her gift may be used as seed or match money to pursue state grants – if capital funds become available from the state.

“Maybe that could help us turn her $1 million into something even more significant.

“It’s always great when someone local believes in our community and remembers it in their will,” Timmermann said.

Patrick Schaufelberger, O’Neill’s personal attorney, said that the distribution of the assets of her estate was designed to produce the most impact for the college and community.

“It was a thoughtful move to make the foundation the recipient,” he said.

“She wanted it to be used locally, and wanted to maximize the money available from the state through a match.

“This will do an enormous amount of good in the Vandalia area,” Schaufelberger said.

The new Vandalia KC facility will be named the Alice Hudders Fine Arts Center, after O’Neill’s longtime friend Alice Hudders.

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