URI alumnus leaves $1 Million In bequests to support her alma mater and Newport’s Redwood Library

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KINGSTON, R. I. – April 14, 2015 — The University of Rhode Island and the Redwood Library & Athenaeum in Newport have collectively received $1 million in bequests from Jane Cotton Ebbs, a 1935 URI alum and native Newporter whose decision to study nutrition as a student at URI in the 1930s would contribute to saving millions of lives in a Europe torn apart by the ravages of World War II.


Ebbs, who died at the age of 102 last December, bequested $750,000 to her alma mater, where she discovered her life’s passion. Her gift will create the Jane Cotton Ebbs Endowed Professorship in Philosophy as well as a second endowment in her name to support faculty development in the Philosophy Department at URI. The Redwood Library will also benefit from her bequest, with a $250,000 gift.


The gifts to both institutions illustrate Ebb’s lifelong quest for knowledge and learning.


Ebbs’ connection to the Redwood had very deep roots; she was born in Newport in 1912, and the gift was made in memory of her great-grandmother, Jane Northam Cotton Ebbs, daughter of Dr. Charles Cotton and granddaughter of Captain Stephen T. Northam. Both men were early 19th-century supporters of the Redwood, and Captain Northam was a shareholder and board member.


Ebbs, who grew up in Rhode Island and eventually earned her Ph.D., left her job as a professor at the University of Chicago to embark on a remarkable 33-year federal civil service career in the office of the Quartermaster General (U.S. Army). Ebbs served as the nutrition advisor to the chief of the subsistence division and she was appointed the dietary consultant to Gen. Lucius Clay, military governor of the U.S. Occupied Zone of Germany. She was instrumental in the efforts to feed people in liberated Europe, occupied Germany and Austria during and immediately after World War II.

As noted in her obituary in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, her “role in the Allied Efforts to feed liberated Europe and later Asia led to saving millions of lives in those war torn countries.” Her book, The Hidden War, published in 1991, details her involvement in then-President Eisenhower’s European invasion plan, which included plans to provide food, shelter, and medical help to civilians.


Michael Smith, president of the URI Foundation said, “We are truly proud of our alumni, like Jane Cotton Ebbs, who make such an indelible mark on the world and we are extremely grateful that they remain committed to their alma mater. URI will honor her wishes to support faculty and will forever be reminded, in doing so, of her innovation, her thirst for knowledge and her pioneering spirit.”


Dr. Edwin G. Fischer, M.D., President of the Board of Directors at the Redwood Library, said that notification of Ms. Ebbs’ gift was received in February. “The Redwood is very grateful to Ms. Ebbs, whose family has supported the Library for over two hundred of its 268 years. Her personal history is fascinating and we are all proud that she is a native Newporter, whose education and experience make her an important historical figure, as well.”


For more details on the life and work of Jane Cotton Ebbs, click here.


The URI Foundation exists to inspire and steward philanthropic support benefiting the University of Rhode Island. To learn more about how private support is making an impact, visit www.urifoundation.org.