WAYNE — A science building on the campus of William Paterson University will forever bear the names of a retired professor and her late husband, who donated their savings for scholarships and student research.
University officials renamed the 50-year-old Science Hall East after Dorothy and George Hennings to recognize their undisclosed gift.
At a dedication ceremony outside the building, Hennings said the dedication would help her overcome the loss of her husband, who died in September 2016. He would have turned 100 this month.
“When I see that,” Hennings said of their names on the 165,000-square-foot building, “it makes me feel good.”
Then she revealed an intimate fact.
“My husband married me,” Hennings said, “knowing I couldn’t have kids. That’s love. Isn’t it?”
With no direct heirs and no one to carry her husband’s name, she said, they decided to contribute to higher education.
Hennings, also a published author, recited an ode she wrote in memory of her husband. It said, in part: “George has taught me much of what I know; to see and love the earth with open eyes and a helping hand; to care for, to give generously to those who have none, love all living beings.”
Richard Helldobler, the president of William Paterson, said on behalf of the university that he was “very grateful” to receive the donation, which he called an “investment in the future of New Jersey.”
“Given the ongoing disruptions in education and beyond,” he said, such monetary support will be “increasingly important to the health and vitality of the university.”
Helldobler also playfully noted that students who gravitate towards alliteration will find Hennings Hall an “easy place” to congregate.
Hennings and her husband have a closer connection to Kean University, where they met and taught for a total of 63 years. In March 2020, she reportedly gave the Union County institution the most important gift that he ever received.
And in September, Hennings was the special guest at a ceremony for rename Preakness Hall after his late sister, Barbara Moll Grant, died aged 86 in July 2019. She donated $5 million to the university for the establishment of a scholarship fund in her name.
Grant was an alumnus of the university in 1954 and taught there for 35 years.
Hennings became close to William Paterson officials after her sister’s death, they said, and that relationship ultimately led to her recent donation.
Philip DeVententis is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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