Retired Teacher Leaves $2 Million Gift Citing Gratitude to BW

January 1, 2011

A former teacher of mathematics and German in the Cleveland City Schools, who wanted to be able to thank her alma mater for the opportunities and preparation it provided her, has left more than $2 million to Baldwin Wallace University.

Laura Bickimer of Cleveland, who never received an annual salary of more than $40,000, died April 7, 2008.  The school received the final distribution this week on a $2,155,600 estate gift that will be used for scholarships and facility enhancements.

Thomas Konkoly '68, director of development for gift planning, said that she lived frugally and invested wisely. After retiring in 1972 she continued to fill her days with learning and giving to others. "I try each day to do some act of kindness or have some thoughtful communication that will bring happiness or perhaps enlightenment of solace to someone," she wrote.

Ms. Bickimer grew up in Cleveland and earned an academic scholarship to attend Baldwin Wallace.  She was valedictorian when she graduated in 1936.  She taught at John Marshall High School (1938-58) and Carl Shuler and Newton D. Baker junior high schools before retiring in 1972.

"BW taught me more than subject material," she said on a reunion questionnaire in 2001.  "It molded my philosophy, taught me appreciation for the finer things, and gave me depth, greater sensitivity, and religious insight that shaped my thinking and attitude toward God and man."

She was the only recipient of the first Ford Foundation Fellowship of Teachers of Cleveland in 1952.  The yearlong sabbatical allowed her to study international education in 14 European countries and enriched her teaching for the next two decades.

When establishing a scholarship at BW in 2005, she said, "My main goal is to repay BW for my fine college education.  Inasmuch as one never climbs the ladder of success alone, I pay homage to the schools and good teachers who inspired me, to my supportive parents, and God who always fortifies me.  To them I attribute my appreciation for the best things that life has offered me."

Her will specifies that an additional $50,000 be directed to the Clara and Laura Bickimer scholarship and $100,000 to fund a mathematics classroom on campus.  The remainder will be directed to two major construction and renovation projects on the BW campus.

"Laura Bickimer's commitment to her students and dedication to excellence in the classroom reflect the finest BW traditions," said BW President Richard Durst.  "She remained an active part of our College community throughout her life and her legacy will continue to enhance the lives of our students for years to come.  We are deeply grateful for her vision, her generosity and her undying commitment to Baldwin Wallace University."