Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Lifelong connection

Wheaton students will benefit for years to come from a scholarship fund established through a generous gift from the estate of Helen Dixon Kunzelmann P’65.

Mrs. Kunzelmann, a graduate of the Dana Hall School and Vassar College, was the mother of Susan Kunzelmann ’65, who passed away in 1994, and the mother-in-law of Joan Margaret Atwood Kunzelmann ’65.

The establishment of the scholarship reflects the Kunzelmann family’s connection to Wheaton and the strong bonds of friendship that Susan forged at the college, says her sister-in-law Joan Kunzelmann ’65. “She was larger than life.”

One of her classmates, Jean Jones Beard ’65, also remembers Susan as a vibrant person with a strong personality. “Somewhere I have a photo of her. It was taken at school. She’s holding a book, the title of which read Dynamite. That summed up Susan,” Beard said. “She was a feisty, independent, involved, creative student who always kept us on our toes. She went on to become a very interesting woman.”

Alexandra Marshall ’65 described her classmate and friend as an adventurer and an explorer in every way, a French major and a one-time ski instructor who became interested in spirituality and studied theology as an adult.

“Her papers would always be late because she would write a 75-page paper for a five-page assignment,” Marshall said. “I don’t know what her teachers thought of it. But I remember that some idea would catch her interest and she would just pursue it.”

The bonds formed at Wheaton inspired a continuing connection to the family after Susan’s death, said Joan Kunzelmann, and that was important to her mother. “A number of Susan’s friends remained in contact with Helen for the remainder of her life, and she enjoyed their friendship.”

Beyond the connection to the college, the scholarship fund also expresses Helen’s personal commitment to the importance of learning. “Mrs. Kunzelmann felt very strongly about the value of education and she made gifts to a number of educational institutions that were important in her own life and in the life of her children,” her daughter-in-law explained.

Like her daughter Susan, Helen took great pleasure in life, which was evident in her hearty laugh, Marshall said. “She was just very faithful and incredibly energetic. She threw herself into various activities around Bennington, Vt., particularly gardening. Gardening was a big interest of hers.”

While available to all students from New Jersey and Vermont, the scholarship places a special emphasis on assisting students from Boonton, N.J., where Mrs. Kunzelmann grew up, and Bennington, Vt., where she spent most of her adult life.

Her friends and family say those priorities reflect her love for the communities in which she lived. A dedicated gardener throughout her life, Kunzelmann was active in the Bennington Garden Club and the Garden Club of America. She also was a member of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America and a former Regent of Gunston Hall in Virginia.