A Gift Nearly 80 Years in the Making

By Margaret Popper

Lucile Holtby Harford ’34

At her Commencement ceremony in 1934, Lucile Holtby Harford ’34 walked up to receive her diploma along with her William Smith classmates. While this may not be remarkable on the surface, a closer look reveals great character and what became a lifelong commitment to her alma mater, her community and those with disabilities.

Throughout her life, Lucile suffered as a result of childhood polio. When she received her diploma from William Smith, it was due to her own determination and the love of a father who, the night before the ceremony, erected a ramp with a railing to make her independence at that triumphant moment possible.

During the years that followed, Lucile worked for the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station and was active in the Geneva community and her church. Amazingly, in the 1960s – 30 years before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act – Lucile convinced the mayor of Geneva to establish a committee for aid to the handicapped. Chaired by Lucile for 16 years, the committee addressed issues of access to churches, schools, restaurants, shops and public buildings for those with disabilities. It was at this time that she married a local businessman, Richard J. Harford.

Later in life, the Harfords moved to Florida and Lucile relished regular visits from members of the HWS and Geneva communities. After Richard’s death, she formed a strong bond with the family of President Mark D. Gearan, and loved telling stories of her days at the Colleges while hearing of news from campus. Lucile, a loyal donor and early member of The Wheeler Society, spoke often of her intention to leave money to the Colleges to assist with issues of disability.

Lucile Holtby Harford, a dedicated and remarkable alumna, passed away on March 29, 2012, less than a year shy of her 100th birthday. Not long ago, during the settlement of Harford’s estate, the Colleges were notified of her bequest. The resulting funds – realized nearly 80 years after her courageous walk up the ramp to receive her William Smith diploma – will provide the resources to support a newly established global disability initiative led by HWS faculty. In addition, her thoughtful planning will assist in providing accessibility features within the new Performing Arts Center.

“Lucile, through all of her own hardships, found ways to make life better and brighter for others,” recalls Gearan. “Her bequest is an example of how important planned giving is for the future of Hobart and William Smith, and we honor her life and her commitment to the Geneva and HWS communities.”

At the end of 2014, the Colleges will celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Wheeler Society, a recognition society for those whose planned gifts reaffirm their dedication to Hobart and William Smith Colleges. To learn more about planned giving and membership in The Wheeler Society, contact Leila Rice, associate vice president for advancement, at (315) 781-3545 or


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