Artist and philanthropist Jane Walentas, perhaps best known for her quarter-century restoration of a vintage carousel that now has pride of place in Brooklyn Bridge Park, has donated $5 million to her alma mater, Moore College of Art and Design, the largest gift in the school’s 171-year history.
The funds, given with Walentas’ husband, developer David Walentas, will be used to provide the new Walentas Visionary Woman Scholarships, which will become part of Moore’s Visionary Woman Honors Program, an effort to provide financial support and mentoring for exceptional students.
“Relative to the history of fund-raising [at Moore], this is quite a momentous occurrence,” said Moore president Cecelia Fitzgibbon. “It’s larger even than the funds that founded Moore.”
The school had about 373 undergraduate students in 2018. There are no plans to change its female-only admissions policy.
Fitzgibbon said the Walentas’ gift would provide scholarship support in excess of $22,000 for about 10 or 11 students annually — about 10 percent of each matriculating class. The funds will likely come in many cases with a housing grant.
Full tuition amounts to about $41,000 for this academic year.
“Everyone coming to Moore gets some form of scholarship assistance,” Fitzgibbon said. The establishment of the Walentas scholarships will hopefully attract students from outside of the immediate Philadelphia area who might otherwise not attend Moore or any school at all, she said.
Jane Walentas said she had “a wonderful education and time at Moore" when she attended in the 1960s.
“I absolutely loved it,” she said. “I loved being in the city. The school was small and nurturing. It served me well in many ways.”
Walentas had a career as an art director with Estée Lauder, Avon, and Elizabeth Arden before becoming a full-time artist and philanthropist. She spent 27 years — from 1984 to 2011 — working on the painstaking restoration of a carousel built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. and originally installed in Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio.
Now known as Jane’s Carousel, the 48-horse ride graces the park on the east bank of the East River in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn.
Walentas’ husband, founder of Two Trees Management, is known for his projects in DUMBO and the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where he has been active since the 1970s.
Jane Walentas actually attributes the Moore gift to her husband, who received a full scholarship to attend the University of Virginia.
“He pushed it,” she said. “He said, ‘We have the money. It’s an important thing to do for Moore.’ He believed, and I agree, it will make a difference at Moore.”
Fitzgibbon couldn’t agree more.