Last week we heard stunning news from Poughkeepsie based Marist College. They announced they received the largest gift ever in Marist history. A bequest to the College, conservatively estimated at $75 million, will soon lead to the creation of the Raymond A. Rich Institute for Leadership Development, providing a program aimed at educating and training individuals in the art of leadership.
The bequest, made by Raymond A. Rich, includes a 60-acre riverfront estate in the Ulster County Town of Esopus that holds the most historically and architecturally significant home in perhaps all of the Hudson River Valley. The 42,000 square foot Beaux Arts-style palazzo was designed by the renowned Manhattan firm of Carrére and Hastings, architects of the Frick Museum and the New York Public Library, to name a few.
The property has a rich, interesting history which now comes full circle. Industrialist Oliver Hazard Payne purchased the estate of John Jacob Astor in Esopus in 1905 and constructed the amazing home known over the years as the “Payne Mansion”. After Payne’s death the mansion was donated to the Episcopal Diocese of New York. From 1937 to 1966 the mansion was home to the Wiltwyck School for Boys, serving troubled children. But sometime during 1942 the property was divided and a portion of it was sold to the Marist Brothers, the founders of Marist College. Their portion of the estate, including the Payne Mansion was used as a retreat house and school for many years. However, in 1986 Rich purchased the mansion and 60 acres of land from the Marist Brothers and restored the estate to it's former grandeur. He resided there until his passing in June.
How fitting that Mr. Rich would bequeath the property to Marist College upon his death, and how exciting for the College to be able to grow and offer what will likely be a very special educational experience. The Marist grads I know have summed up the news of this gift in one word...unbelieveable.