Local agricultural innovator, entrepreneur and philanthropist Carl W. Fribolin has donated more than 35 acres of farmland on White Springs Lane in the Town of Geneva to Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The donation amounts to more than $500,000 and is the largest charitable gift that Fribolin has made to one institution.
“I am very grateful to Carl for this extraordinary gift and the educational opportunities it will provide to generations of Hobart and William Smith students,” says Mark D. Gearan, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. “With his partner Elizabeth Mitchell, they have made the preservation of the Finger Lakes region a priority. This thoughtful gift will allow HWS to create innovative, experiential curricula that will give students hands-on experiences in the value of this area and the deep responsibility we all have to ensure its future.”
“It’s a beautiful piece of property that deserves to be maintained and we sincerely believe that the Colleges will do that,” says Fribolin. “Hobart and William Smith have a history of responsible land stewardship. Elizabeth and I wanted the same kind of treatment for this property. Donating it to the Colleges will ensure that it remains agricultural.”
Located less than a mile from campus, the grounds include a barn, stables, spring-fed ponds, and an indoor equestrian ring. Along with the donation of the farm, the Colleges purchased a home on the property.
Gearan has established a committee of faculty, staff and students with a mandate to broadly imagine possible uses for the farm, house and acreage. Committee members include: Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Tom Drennen, Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations Martha Bond, Vice President for Student Affairs Robb Flowers, Grounds Manager David Iannicello, Sustainability Manager Adam Maurer, Professor of History and Dean of William Smith College Susanne McNally, Professor of Biology Elizabeth Newell and Vice President for Finance Pete Polinak.
Throughout his life, Fribolin has been instrumental in revitalizing land and sustaining the arts in the Finger Lakes region. A native of Naples, N.Y., he graduated from Cornell University in 1940 with a degree in agriculture. After serving as a teacher with the Andover Central School District in Allegany County in the 1940s, he built a successful career as a sales manager with the Ralston-Purina Company. He eventually served as Chief Executive Officer of Ralston-Purina’s Guatemala City division. In 1962, Fribolin purchased several seed companies which he established as the Hall-based Seedway, a successful venture in seed production and distribution which he later sold to Agway, Inc. upon his retirement in 1987.
In 1973, Fribolin purchased White Springs Farms in Geneva, N.Y., which had been at various points in history a dairy farm, fruit farm and rotating crop farm. To address the problem of soil erosion, in 2003 Fribolin planted 13 acres of grapes, primarily vinifera, to create White Springs Winery. Although he sold the land in 2012 to Ravines Wine Cellars, White Springs Winery continues to be owned and operated by Fribolin.
Fribolin is a member of the Geneva Arts Development Council Board, a member of Lyons National Bank Advisory Committee, and a board member and past vice president of the Smith Opera House. As Co-Chair of the Smith’s Restoration Endowment Projects, Fribolin led a team of community members in restoring the Smith Opera House to its intended state as one of the most historic and recognizable theatres in the Finger Lakes. An honorary member of the Finger Lakes Health Foundation, he has served as trustee of the Savings Bank of the Finger Lakes, Fleet-Norstar Bank of Rushville and the Geneva General Hospital. He is trustee emeritus of Keuka College where he chaired capital campaigns raising more than $16M. Predeceased by his wife, Fanny, Fribolin has two daughters, Patricia and Anne, six grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
The photos above feature the Fribolin farm, and Elizabeth Mitchell and Carl Fribolin following the Convocation 2008 ceremony when he received the President’s Medal.