A conversation with… Margaret Dunn Smith ’73

-The Quarterly recently caught up with Trustee Margaret ”Maggie” Dunn Smith ’73, the busy owner and operator of the Warren (Vt.) Store and two luxury inns, Winvian in Litchfield Hills, Conn., and the Pitcher Inn in Warren, Vt. A member of the Campaign Steering Committee, Smith shared her feelings about Wheaton, the campaign and the spirit of giving.

What message do you take from the campaign’s success so far?

In spite of these challenging economic times, philanthropy at Wheaton has never been stronger. Donors clearly understand that a Wheaton education is a transformative experience. Our alumnae/i, parents and friends recognize the importance of donating generously to honor Wheaton’s past and to preserve its legacy for future generations.

Of the remaining priorities for the campaign (student scholarships, student-faculty research funds or the Wheaton Fund), which one means the most to you and why?

All three are of critical importance to the successful completion of this campaign. Personally, I contribute annually to support my endowed scholarship and the Wheaton Fund. Student scholarships are vital to the Wheaton community because they enable qualified candidates to enroll regardless of their ability to pay. My four siblings and I were fortunate to attend liberal arts institutions thanks to the hard work of our parents, who impressed upon us the lifelong value of learning in a rigorous environment. I share my parents’ dedication to the education process and will continue to help qualified students gain access to the same benefits I was privileged to enjoy.

What is the most important message about the campaign that you would want others to know?

Every gift makes a difference and is tremendously appreciated! Our gifts make it possible for Wheaton to hire outstanding faculty, improve campus facilities, build and renovate student housing, and enhance science, technology, the arts and athletics. All of these are necessary to attract a highly qualified and diverse student body. The recent completion of the spectacular Mars Center for Science and Technology is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when individuals work together toward a common goal.

You recently said that your community’s response to a disaster at your inn in Vermont reminded you of Wheaton. How so?

Last fall, a stream rose 15 feet to become a raging river that ran through Warren, leaving silt, mud and devastation behind. I was completely blown away by the outpouring of the Pitcher Inn and Warren Store staff, friends, acquaintances and strangers who rallied to help. With strong backs, willing hands and loving hearts, they removed six truckloads of dirt and debris — all by hand in a bucket-brigade formation. It was a most amazing display of support. I feel that this same kind of love and attention comes to institutions like Wheaton because of shared bonds and experiences. The right cause bubbles up to the top, and supporters appear. Everyone shares the rewards because they all share a stake in the greater community.