Paul J. Schupf ’58, trustee emeritus, philanthropic supporter of the arts, and founder of the W.S. Schupf Endowed Chair in Far Eastern Studies, passed away Dec. 4, 2019. He was 82 years old.
Schupf came to Colgate in 1954 to major in history and was unbeaten on the Colgate tennis team. He went on to have a successful career as a portfolio manager for Steinhardt Partners in New York City, and in 1981 he established Paul J. Schupf Associates, a private investment firm, in Hamilton.
It was during this time that Schupf first became a member of the Board of Trustees. From 1978–84 and 1987–93, he served on a variety of committees, including the Finance Committee, Budget Committee, Athletics Committee, Committee on Religious Life, Academic and Faculty Affairs Committee, and the Committee on Development and External Affairs. This record of service was recognized with a Maroon Citation in 1979 for invaluable personal contributions to Colgate as well as the Wm. Brian Little ’64 Alumni Award in 1983 for distinguished service.
As a prolific art collector, Schupf’s personal collection included the works of Alex Katz, Chuck Close, Richard Serra, Francis Bacon, Jean Dubuffet, and Ed Ruscha. His side-by-side Hamilton homes housed these works alongside artisan electric guitars and a library of more than 25,000 art books, exhibition catalogs, and biographies.
“His home reflected his passions, his sharp opinionated and informed mind, as well as his big and generous soul,” John Pelosi ’85 said. “Paul’s steadfast efforts to increase the presence and appreciation of art at Colgate should be celebrated, and progress in this regard should be his true legacy.”
Schupf’s generosity extended to these valued possessions, and he made distinct efforts to share both the works themselves and a fundamental belief in the arts. In 1998, Schupf’s philanthropic support allowed for the creation of the Paul J. Schupf ’58 Studio Arts Center. An old telephone company building at the corner of Hamilton’s Eaton and Montgomery streets was converted into nearly 8,000 square feet of studio space for students and faculty artists.
“The Paul Schupf Studio art building has been a wonderful asset to faculty and students alike for well over a decade,” said Padma Kaimal, Batza Professor and department chair of art and art history. “The building allows student artists and established faculty to immerse themselves in their creative work. The Schupf Art Center has also acted as a site for community engagement with contemporary art forms.”
Additionally, Schupf lent several Alex Katz paintings for exhibition in the James B. Colgate Hall in 2007 in honor of former President Rebecca Chopp’s sponsorship of the arts at Colgate. He also created the Schupf Fellowship, which allows one or two Colgate graduates to study at St. Anne’s College at the University of Oxford each year, the only annual fellowship to Oxford offered at an undergraduate liberal arts university in the United States.
Schupf’s support of the arts and further study was not exclusive to Colgate’s campus, and his generosity was recognized with honorary degrees from Thomas College, Cazenovia College, and Colby College.
“Paul J. Schupf was the most generous man and fiercest advocate I have ever met and will likely ever meet,” Greg Koerner ’88 said. “His profound love for the arts and intense curiosity and intelligence were surpassed only by his desire to help the institutions and friends he held dear.”
Schupf is survived by many Colgate alumni, including his niece Amy Jurkowitz ’85, his grandniece Alexandra Jurkowitz ’17, and his cousin Margot Schupf ’94.
“He was both eccentric and brilliant. Paul and I had many discussions (and arguments!) over the years and each ended either heated or with a laugh,” Amy Jurkowitz said.
In the same way that Schupf curated an art collection that will live on, he established a legacy of learning from which generations of students will benefit. From the art center to the fellowship at Colgate to art and science centers at Colby College, Schupf left behind spaces for wandering, marveling, and educating — ideals he undoubtedly keeps alive.
“I will miss him deeply, particularly for his honest, helpful advice,” Andrew Coddington, Associate Vice President of Institutional Advancement and a neighbor and friend of Schupf’s said. “He was no-nonsense, but he was generous of heart with his friends, just the same.”