The Colgate Scene
March 2003

A simple man's gift

[File photo]

Ivo Malan lived simply, true to his austere roots.

Throughout his career at Colgate, which began in 1956, the professor of French literature, seconded by his wife Beatrice, gave little importance to consumption and materialism. The Malans saved and began early to invest in stocks and bonds. Retiring in 1983, Malan could frequently be seen on campus in his ancient blue Volkswagen Beetle -- stopping by Lawrence Hall, visiting the administration building, working in the library, having lunch at Merrill House. Knowledgeable in fields ranging from literature to psychology, from classical music to automotives, he was considered a fine conversationalist by his friends. Frail, polite, reserved and unassuming, he was a scholar few would have imagined as a member of the James B. Colgate Society.

Malan passed away last June, leaving more than $1 million, one-third of his estate, to Colgate.

Malan's will stipulates that 40 percent of his Colgate bequest go to the Beatrice and Ivo Robert Malan Endowed Library Fund that he created in 1996 in memory of his wife, who until her retirement had worked as a library assistant. The fund supports the purchase of books, preferably in the fields of French literature and parapsychology.

The balance of the gift -- more than $600,000 -- will establish a new fund in the Malans' name that will provide scholarship assistance for Native American students at Colgate.

Born and raised in a Waldensian community in the Italian Alps, Malan also left one-third of his estate to hometown charities run by the Waldensian Church, an outgrowth of a pre-Reformation Protestant movement.

Chris Vecsey, Charles A. Dana Professor of the humanities, remembers Malan as a man whose intellectual curiosity never faded, as when he asked to audit Vecsey's American Indian Religions class soon after retirement. "He told me that a namesake of his (but not a known relative) had written about Plains Indian religion in the early part of the twentieth century. Ivo wanted to learn more about Indian religions," said Vecsey. "He attended the whole term and we began a friendship that lasted until his death."

According to Ross Ferlito, a longtime colleague and executor of the estate, Ivo Malan was a modest man who insisted on total anonymity for the gifts he made during his lifetime. He didn't write the same condition into his will, which was carefully drawn, and so the bequests are being made public.

"Until his death, his wealth meant little to him personally except as a guarantee that he would have adequate care in his old age," said Ferlito, professor of Romance languages and literatures, emeritus. "When I would urge him to buy something for himself, he would answer that he preferred giving his money away rather than spending for himself." -- John D. Hubbard

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