The estate of Virginia G. and Alonzo G. Decker, Jr. will provide $4.3 million to Washington College, President Baird Tipson announced today. In recognition of the gift and in consultation with the Deckers' personal representative, the College will dedicate the main theatre in the newly renovated Gibson Performing Arts Center in honor of the Deckers and will create two new endowed scholarships—the Alonzo G. Decker, Jr. Scholarship for business management students and the Virginia G. Decker Scholarship for students in the performing arts. The Deckers also provided $100,000 to create an endowment to support the Virginia Gent Decker Arboretum on campus.
"Although not graduates or parents, the Deckers cherished Washington College and provided exemplary leadership for it," President Tipson said. "In addition to the many ways they helped to transform the College during their lifetimes, this gift will ensure that their legacy extends even farther to provide student scholarships, support the arts, and beautify the historic campus they loved."
Remembered by colleagues at the College as a leader of great intelligence, vision and kindness, Mr. Decker inspired others with his enthusiasm for the "joy of giving." "Don't give until it hurts," he was known for saying, "Give until it feels real good." Former President and Chief Executive Officer of The Black & Decker Corporation, he was a member of the Board of Visitors and Governors of the College from 1982 until his death in 2002. Mr. Decker, along with Washington College trustee emeritus James Price P'84, led in the 1980s Washington College's Campaign for Excellence that raised more than $43 million for scholarships and faculty support, academic computing and new facilities, including construction of the Decker Laboratory Center. Mr. Decker and Mr. Price also served together as Honorary Co-Chairs of the Campaign for Washington's College that raised more than $103 million and ended in 2003. During that Campaign, the Deckers created the Alonzo G. and Virginia G. Decker Chair in the Natural Sciences.
A Baltimore native and son of a co-founder of The Black & Decker Manufacturing Company, Mr. Decker began his career with the power tool company in 1922 at the age of 14. With an electrical engineering degree from Cornell University, he joined the company full-time as consulting engineer in 1930, working his way through most departments and eventually becoming chairman of the board. During the 1930s, he served as an engineer in research and manufacturing. In 1940, he was elected to the board of directors, followed by his election as executive vice president in 1956, president in 1960, and chief executive officer in 1964. Four years later he was named chairman of the board. During his ten years as chief executive officer, the company enjoyed its greatest period of growth. Today, Black & Decker is a world leader in the production of portable power tools, with offices in 50 countries. In addition to Washington College, Mr. Decker served on the boards of Johns Hopkins University, Hopkins School of Continuing Studies, and the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Throughout their 53-year marriage, Mr. Decker's wife, Virginia, steadfastly supported her husband's well-known love of philanthropy. At Washington College, he founded the Alonzo G. Decker, Jr. Society to attract and recognize major College benefactors. Along with her husband, she participated in numerous campus events, and she was an integral part of the festivities when he received the Award for Excellence in 1986 and an honorary Doctor of Public Service in 1997.
After her husband's death, Mrs. Decker maintained her friendship with the College, returning to campus to attend lectures and meet with members of the Friends of the Virginia Gent Decker Arboretum, named in recognition of her long-time support and her love of nature. In 2006, at the age of 90, she cut the ceremonial ribbon celebrating the completion of the construction and renovation of the College's $26 million Decker-Dunning-Toll Science Center.
Like her husband, she will be remembered on campus for her love of Washington College and the Eastern Shore, as well as her great compassion, kindness, and generosity of spirit. To honor her memory, the College dedicated a descendant of the historic Wye Oak on the campus lawn on Arbor Day, Friday, April 25, 2008, the same day a memorial service was held in her honor in Baltimore.
Mrs. Decker grew up in the Chestnut Ridge area of Baltimore County. She was graduated from Towson High School in 1933 and later took continuing education courses at Goucher College. In 1948, she married Mr. Decker, a director and officer of The Black & Decker Corporation. Over the next 30 years, they traveled on behalf of Black & Decker, visiting 13 countries on five continents. Later, they often hosted the Corporation's directors and officers at Money Point Farm, the Deckers' home on the Sassafras River in Cecil County, until Mr. Decker's death in March 2002.
In addition to her involvement at Washington College, Mrs. Decker served on the Board of Directors of The Keswick Home for years and as a Director of the Johns Hopkins University School of Continuing Studies.
June 3, 2008