Antioch has lost a great friend and champion. Lillian Pierson Lovelace passed away on January 16, 2024 at the age of 96! No words can truly describe what Lillian has meant to Antioch University for over 80 years but we will try.
Lillian Pierson started her undergraduate studies at Antioch College in the Fall of 1946 and withdrew in June 1948. Antioch would expand tremendously over the next several decades, establishing well over thirty-five centers and campuses across the nation starting in 1964, including significant graduate programs. Antioch changed its name in 1978 to Antioch University to clarify that it was no longer only an undergraduate liberal arts college serving traditional age students. It was to one of the Antioch campuses far from Yellow Springs that Lillian Pierson Lovelace returned to complete her studies. In her early fifties, after raising her family, Lillian resumed her undergraduate education at Antioch University in Santa Barbara in 1987 and completed her BA in Liberal Studies in March of 1989.
Lillian then joined the Board of Trustees of Antioch University in 1989 and over the next three decades, became one of the most generous and significant benefactors ever in our 172 year history. Al Guskin, then President of the College and University Chancellor, recalls his first meeting with Lillian in 1989 on a park bench outside the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. The University Vice Chancellor for Development had arranged the meeting. Their connection, and the next thirty-plus years, changed the course of Antioch and the many, many lives Lillian touched.
Al Guskin includes himself as one of the many people whose lives were transformed by Lillian. In his memoir, which he dedicated to Lillian, Al writes, “Lillian and her husband Jon Lovelace were incredible philanthropists to numerous causes. Norman Lear, famous television producer, writer, political activist, and close friend of Lillian and Jon, writes in his own memoir about the Lovelaces’ generosity: Giving was as natural to the Lovelaces as their breathing, and since their interests knew no bounds, causes and institutions throughout the culture were their beneficiaries.”
The number of Antioch projects and initiatives funded by Lillian and the Pierson-Lovelace Foundation are too many to list, but they track the growth of the University in incalculable ways. She was pragmatic but she believed in dreaming. She was a realist who expected results, but understood outcomes in ways far beyond financial metrics. She was motivated by a deep commitment to social justice, but had a sharp business mind and a focus on success that endured to her final days. Her generosity included: the initial funding for the MFA in Creative Writing; her support of a think tank on the future of higher education; her generous founding gift to establish the PhD in Leadership & Change; her significant investment to develop fundraising capacity at the university and the hiring of the first university-wide development leadership and staff; and her leadership gift to The Fund for the Future in 2017 for a university-wide generative process for thinking through Antioch’s next big ideas. Her final gift in 2021 was the seed money to establish the Guskin Center for Democracy and the Common Good.
As a Board member, Lillian brought her love of the College and the University. She believed in both and brought many to the table for the betterment of all. Art Zucker, Board Chair from 2005 to 2011, reflected, “Lillian was of immense value to Antioch in so many ways. During my term she was a great support, advisor, and friend. For me, it was an honor, privilege, and joy to be engaged with her.” Even after stepping down from her active role on the Board in 2002, Lillian was elected Governor Emerita and continued to attend board meetings when possible.
As a final reflection on the loss of an Antiochian like no other, Chancellor Groves adds, “Antioch could not have been blessed with a better champion for its mission than Lillian Lovelace. She was a stalwart supporter of the university for over fifty years. As a university, we all extend our deepest sympathy to her family, friends, and those who loved her as we did. She will be greatly missed.”