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Helen Persson, longtime supporter of Colgate, dies at age 95

By Tim O'Keeffe on June 19, 2013
Helen Persson provided leadership support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation,

Helen Persson. (Photo courtesy of Palm Beach (Fla.) Daily News)

Helen K. Persson, who received an honorary degree from Colgate in 1984 and has been a longtime supporter of the university, died Monday. She was 95.

Persson was married to A. Theodore (Ted) Persson ’42, trustee emeritus, who passed away in 2006.

The Perssons played a key role in the success of the Campaign For Colgate: The Promise of Leadership in the 1990s. They made the lead gift for the Colgate academic building that was dedicated in 1994 and bears their name.  Persson Hall houses economics, educational studies, and political science departments, as well as the Division of Social Sciences. The building has won multiple design awards from the American Institute of Architects.

In addition, Helen Persson was one of 13 challengers who donated $1 million each to match the contribution made by campaign donors in the final year of the effort.

During the Passion for the Climb campaign Helen Persson made generous planned gifts, established the A. Theodore Persson ’42 and Helen K. Persson H’84 Endowment Fund that supports the operating costs of Persson Hall, and supported Colgate’s Hamilton Initiative. In recognition of her support, the Helen K. Persson Suite in the Colgate Inn was named in her honor, and dedicated to the memory of her husband.

The daughter of Russian immigrants, Persson graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s College of Nursing and went on to serve as head nurse in pediatrics. She was an officer in the Navy Nurse Corps during WWII, according to an obituary in the Palm Beach (Fla.) Daily News.

In addition to her Colgate contributions, Persson was a strong supporter of the arts, education, and community wellness, particularly in the Palm Beach area.

She was a supporter of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, where she served as a board member; the Metropolitan Opera; Palm Beach Atlantic University; and the Palm Beach Opera, where she served as a board member.

Helen Persson also provided leadership support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation, having been inspired by the efforts of Bob ’83 and Lee ’82 Woodruff to support injured military service members and their families.

She was a donor to Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York; Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis; Good Samaritan Hospital; and to Palm Beach Atlantic University’s College of Nursing.

A memorial service will be held in the Lost Tree Chapel, North Palm Beach, Fla., on Saturday.  A service for her internment in the Colgate cemetery, where her husband is buried, will be held on a date to be determined.

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1 Comment



  • Tim Mansfield said:

    A sad loss for Colgate. I am grateful that Bob Tyburski ’74 (Tybo) will represent the institution at the service for this wonderful person.