Photo of Evelyn Openhym
Evelyn T. Openhym
Graduation Year(s): 1924

Evelyn T. Openhym

Evelyn Tennyson Openhym grew up in incredible poverty. Her father left the family when she was a young child, and her mother died when she was just fourteen. When she was old enough to attend college, her neighbor offered to pay for her education. There was only one condition: she had to agree to do the same for a future Alfred University student if she was ever financially able to do so.

“Every good thing that ever happened to me, was the result of Alfred University.” –Evelyn T. Openhym

Evelyn’s family had a history with the University dating before the Civil War. She graduated in 1924 with a degree in ceramic art and was later given an honorary degree for humane letters. While she was studying at A.U., she also met her husband, George. During their honeymoon trip to London, she began collecting rare books. In 1981, she donated her 7,000-volume library of modern British literature and social history to Alfred. The Openhym Collection features many signed first-editions from authors such as T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and D.H. Lawrence. 

In addition to her collection, Evelyn kept her promise of paying for another student’s education. As a major benefactor and trustee of A.U., she helped generations of graduates pay for college. Like her neighbor had requested of her, she requested that those she assisted paid for another student’s education, if they were ever in a financial position to do so.

She was a patron of the Summer Chamber Music Institute and a faithful and generous supporter of many other University programs. In 1973, Openhym Residence Hall was named in her honor. The Hall has since housed many students and is certain to become a home for many more.