Donor profile: Olivia Frost
Olivia Frost is a long time donor to UMSI, most recently documenting a planned estate gift to the school to benefit the C. Olivia Frost Award, which provides scholarship support to School of Information students. Here she shares with us in her own words what the school has meant to her, and why she gives back:
"Through the years, I’ve been fortunate to see how the school has been able to recruit top-notch students. It’s been a privilege and delight to see them go through our program, to see them giving the experience their own unique perspective, and then to learn of their successes as they progress in their careers. This is what has made my work at UMSI worthwhile to me. And it’s how I hope to make a difference in my annual giving as well in the legacy for my estate gift.
"As a faculty member beginning my career in the 70s, I have witnessed fundamental change in the field of information service, in the education of information professionals, and the role that UMSI has played in these developments. I count myself fortunate to have been a part of the school when we first launched the School of Information in 1996, a bold venture in what were very uncertain times. It has been a privilege to see the School evolve and lead the field in so many different ways.
"From the onset of my career at UMSI, and especially in my experiences in various dean roles, I have been particularly inspired by our master's students, and struck by the confidence that students have shown in us, by making financial and personal sacrifices to complete their UMSI degree when they have other options that are more convenient and far less costly. That is why scholarship support for our master's students has been my top priority for UMSI giving activities.
"I have been at UMSI for almost all of my professional life, and there have been many moments which made me proud of our students. Some of my favorites include travels where I had the pleasure of visiting our graduates doing amazing work in Germany, South Africa, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea. But the experience that is perhaps most memorable was one closer to home, at a visit to the State Prison in Jackson, Michigan where one of our students worked as the prison librarian. In the course of that visit, I had fascinating discussions with the three library assistants, all serving life prison terms for first degree murder. All were functionally illiterate upon entering prison, and the library was a major force in helping them become readers and thinkers, earning college degrees while in prison — a powerful example to me of how the work that our students do can change lives.
"Over the course of my tenure at Michigan, I have seen the school grow and change. One experience that brought that change home was our joint effort in the early 90s to draft a proposal to the National Science Foundation. Under the leadership of our then-new dean, Dan Atkins, our culture changed from a model based on working individually to one in which we worked as a powerful interdisciplinary team. We learned to dream boldly and go for the big win, in this case for a grant worth four million dollars. In the closing moments, the proposal was entrusted to a faculty member on a plane to Washington to make sure the proposal arrived on time. (This was before the day of electronic proposal submissions!) When we were successful in that venture, and also successful in another multimillion dollar grant proposal to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, it was an exhilarating experience and made us proud beyond belief.
"A similar sense of pride occurred after we worked together to envision and then implement a groundbreaking new curriculum. Our first MSI students were fellow adventurers, and we all wondered, “What will people do with a degree in information?” At that time, we visualized a new field and what the job prospects might be for these new skills, but we and the students realized we were taking a huge gamble in a still-developing scenario. It was an immensely proud moment for us all when in our first graduating class, we saw students being hired into precisely the types of innovative career paths that we had envisioned.
"I give to UMSI in recognition of the School’s accomplishments and to play a part in making its continued leadership possible."