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Elizabeth Bush Mueller '44

Outright Gift of Real Estate Offers Capital Gains Tax Benefit to Donor and an Endowed Science Fund to Mount Holyoke


As a senior chemistry major, Elizabeth Bush Mueller '44 was considering a graduate program at MIT. Because it was wartime, however, recruiters from industries that had never previously hired women came calling at Mount Holyoke. Mueller was offered a job at RCA Research Laboratories, one of the most important corporate research laboratories in the electrical engineering field. Mueller took the job; she was the first woman hired by the Princeton, New Jersey-based facility. There, she researched microwave absorption; at the time, microwave technology was being developed for wartime aviation purposes.

More than sixty years later, Mueller—who moved with her husband to Germany in 1976—still credits her outstanding Mount Holyoke education with opening doors, not only to RCA but also to a larger world of opportunity. And throughout her life, she’s sought ways to repay the College for making a tuition scholarship available to her, a young woman from a small town in the middle of Illinois. Over the years, she has supported annual scholarships but always wanted to do more. “I especially wanted to add to the endowment,” said Mueller. “I felt it was very important to give something that wasn’t used up immediately, something that could continue to benefit the College.”

When land prices reached a historic high last year, Mueller knew she finally could make that significant contribution by gifting an Illinois farm she’d inherited decades earlier. Initially, she considered selling the land and giving the proceeds to MHC but then realized that she’d be paying a significant capital gains tax. “I realized that if instead I made a gift of the farmland, everybody would win.”

It was a complex transaction and Mueller is grateful to MHC Associate Treasurer Janice Albano, Director of Gift Planning Julie Tyson, and others in the Development Office for streamlining the process, which also involved her attorney and an appraiser in Illinois. “I wanted the transaction completed by the end of the year and Mount Holyoke’s Development staff helped to make that happen, even when things became slightly frantic because documents being shipped overnight from Germany to Illinois were misrouted by a delivery company.”

The proceeds realized from the sale of Mueller’s farmland have endowed the Elizabeth Bush Mueller 1944 Fund for Scientific Laboratory Support. It supplies start-up costs for faculty either newly-recruited to MHC or faculty needing funding to begin a new scientific study. Having such funds to disperse is critically important to Mount Holyoke’s status as one of only a handful of research liberal arts colleges in the country. In addition, awarding start-up funding demonstrates institutional commitment to the faculty member's scholarly success. This, in turn, enables the College's faculty to be extremely competitive in national grants and awards programs.

Though Mueller is still adjusting to the fact they her alma mater has named a fund after her, she is deeply gratified that her gift will make a lasting difference. To her, Mount Holyoke has always been synonymous with excellence in the sciences and it is, she says, a privilege to help continue that legacy.


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