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$1 million country estate donated to WWU as presidential residence

Contributed photo: The president’s residence at William Woods University in Fulton will be converted to a new Alumni and Visitors Center.

Contributed photo: The president’s residence at William Woods University in Fulton will be converted to a new Alumni and Visitors Center.

A 15-acre country estate valued at $1 million has been donated to William Woods University to be used as a presidential residence while the current home of President Jahnae H. Barnett is converted into an alumni and visitors’ center.

Barnett said Theresa Vonderschmitt, a member of the WWU board of trustees, is so committed to the alumni and visitors’ center project that she donated the country estate to serve as the residence of the university president.

“The donation will allow the university to begin renovation on the Tom and Claudine O’Connor Alumni and Visitors’ Center in the very near future,” Barnett said.

The donation answers the question of where the president will live when her current home is converted into an alumni and visitors’ center.

In addition to a spacious home, Vonderschmitt’s property in rural Callaway County includes three horse stalls and tack room, offering the potential for small equestrian activities and also space for hosting events and receptions.

Vonderschmitt was elected to the WWU Board of Trustees in 2004. She manages more than 50 limited partnerships and a portfolio of investments in more than 200 companies. She also serves as a member of the Board of Japan Communications, Inc., a mobile communications company based in Japan.

A native of Japan, Vonderschmitt divides her time between her homes in Jasper, Ind., and San Jose, Calif., with frequent trips to Japan. She has extensive management experience in the airline industry, including an 18-year tenure with Pan American World Airways.

The alumni and visitors’ center will be named after Tom and Claudine O’Connor. It is intended to provide additional guest housing and meeting space on campus. It will provide a university archival space, meeting rooms, a welcome center and other amenities. The fundraising goal for the center is $500,000 and the O’Connors already have contributed $280,000.

Claudine Barrett Cox O’Connor graduated from WWU in 1943 and served as a member of the board of trustees from 1954 to 1991. She was named to honorary status in 2003. She was alumni association president in 1951-52 and has made substantial financial contributions to WWU. She also was the portfolio manager and financial consultant for Cox Medical Center in Springfield and several family corporations and trust funds.

Her husband, Tom O’Connor, was the recipient of the Order of the Owl Award from William Woods in 2009.

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