Transylvania University announced it received $2.9 million — the second largest single gift the school has ever gotten — from the estate of an alumna from the class of 1937.
Margaret J. Lewis, who spent the final three decades of her life in California, left the money to the university in her will. Lewis died in April 2007, a month before her 91st birthday.
The money will be absorbed into Transylvania's endowment fund, where its interest and earnings will pay for scholarships or faculty positions.
"Mrs. Lewis cared deeply about Transylvania, and her wish was to establish a professorship or a named scholarship," said President Charles L. Shearer in a statement. "We will consider several options before deciding how to best honor Margaret's memory and wishes."
The $2.9 million gift is second in size only to an anonymous $5 million gift the university received earlier this decade, said university spokeswoman Sarah Emmons.
Lewis majored in English and minored in French and biology at Transylvania. She was married to a longtime professor at the University of Illinois, Ed Lewis, who preceded her in death. As directed by the couple's will, their nearly $6 million estate was split between the University of Illinois and Transylvania.
Bart Meyer, who met Margaret Lewis while he was Transylvania's vice president for development between 1992 and 2002, said she was "a delightful person" who spoke fondly of her time at the university.
Meyer, who now works for Franklin College in Indiana, made several visits to Lewis's home in Laguna Beach, Calif Her home, according to public records, was nestled between the hillside and the scenic Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County — a burgeoning and expensive area.
Meyer said the house was probably a large source of their sizable estate.
"I think they just invested wisely, were frugal people and came out to California at a time when real estate was reasonable," he said.