20 February 2024 • Alums Vichnesses Support Students Through Planned Gift

Planned gift from Sharlene ’66 and Paul Vichness ’65 honors Sharlene’s parents.

When it came time for Sharlene ’66 and Paul Vichness ’65 to create their estate plan, the pair decided to make a gift to their alma mater through a unique vehicle: Sharlene and Paul will leave a gift of real estate to Hobart and William Smith to support access for future generations of students.

“This was something that we could give that would be meaningful without jeopardizing our financial needs. It’s an easy and painless way to give. And now our children don’t have to worry about selling the house,” Sharlene says.

The gift is the former home of Sharlene’s parents, Helene G. and Wilfred Schmidt, and is a fitting tribute to the couple who took fierce pride in their daughter’s education. Sharlene and Paul have made the gift in their honor.

“It’s about giving back. I know that’s a cliché. But we wouldn’t have met otherwise, and we wouldn’t be who we are as people,” Paul says. Sharlene and Paul met during Sharlene’s third day on campus in 1962. Sharlene left the college store carrying a stack of books and Paul offered to carry them.

Over the years, Sharlene and Paul have felt an enduring connection to HWS.  

“You just feel an affinity for people who have been where you are. You want to see the place continue to be productive,” Paul says. After earning his B.A. in history from HWS, Paul went on to receive his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law and had a distinguished career practicing law. For 18 years, he served as a Superior Court Judge.

“I believe so strongly in a liberal arts education,” Sharlene says. On campus, she was a first-generation student and double majored in French and Spanish. After graduation, she changed careers several times.

“I was a middle school teacher, mother and Spanish language instructor for adults. I later worked in sales and then staffing. Then at 60 years old, I started my own business called Language Directions,” she says. “My education taught me how to think and how to acquire new information. I learned how to do research and gained the ability to seek out answers. My education gave me the tools to be who I wanted to be.”

As a former trustee of Ramapo College of New Jersey, Sharlene appreciates just how critical alumni support can be. “I know how important philanthropy is, and it’s important to me that Hobart and William Smith continues to exist and thrive, and to offer strong financial aid packages to students who couldn’t otherwise afford to attend.”

Learn more about the Wheeler Society, which recognizes individuals and families who have established a planned gift.