Renovations to dining hall at Tompkins College Center already under way.

ALLENTOWN, PA – October 13, 2014  – Verna Orcurto Canova, a lifelong Allentown resident, philanthropist and community volunteer, has left $3.5 million to Cedar Crest College to fund many of the things she loved best about the liberal arts institution from which she graduated in 1938.

“This is a transformational gift for Cedar Crest,” said President Carmen Twillie Ambar.  “Mrs. Canova was a source of inspiration and service to the college during her lifetime.  Her legacy fortifies the plans we have made to position Cedar Crest College for the future.”

The bequest provides for general support of the College, with an emphasis on the sciences and community outreach, as well as programming at the Rodale Aquatic Center. The College’s plans for the gift include the creation of The Verna Canova Endowed Scholarship and Verna Canova Science Suite; The Verna Canova Endowed Aquatic Fund; and the Verna Canova General Use Fund.

A portion of the bequest is already being used in the expansion and renovation of the dining hall inside the Tompkins College Center, which will feature the addition of the “Canova Commons.”

Built in the 1970s, the dining hall had become antiquated and no longer met the needs of the college or the students. The expansion will provide more room for student meals,

meetings, and study activity. Set up in the style of a food court with stations, it will have a formal seating area for dining, as well as comfortable areas for visiting. It will feature a fireplace, the latest technology, flexible spaces, and new flooring, chairs and tables. It will reopen in spring 2015.

“Mrs. Canova was very community minded and loved the Lehigh Valley,” said Susan Arnold, Vice President for Institutional Advancement. “She enjoyed the social aspects of our College, and these renovations will allow the dining hall to become more of a social space for students where they can hang out, study and interact. It will also allow us to hold more community events.”

Construction is half way completed. Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects of Allentown created the design for the remodeled space, with construction being performed by Skepton Construction, Inc. of Pennsburg.

Mrs. Canova, who died August 6, 2013, and her husband, Remo (also deceased), were well known in the Lehigh Valley Community for their legacy of good works and generosity. Her activities included work for the Allentown Art Museum, Lehigh Valley Hospital, the Civic Little Theatre, the John and Dorothy Morgan Cancer Center, Easter Seals and Trout Hall.  Mr. Canova, who died in 1995, chaired the Easter Seals Campaign and the building committee of the Society for Crippled Children. He was a president of the Allentown Rotary and a Paul Harris Fellow there. They both were active in the Lehigh Valley United Way.

An active presence at Cedar Crest, Mrs. Canova served as alumnae president of the class of 1938 and co-chaired her 55th and 60th class reunions. She made numerous gifts to improve the College’s infrastructure and to fund scholarships. Both pools at the Rodale Aquatic Center bear her name. In 2000, Mrs. Canova was accorded the Cedar Crest Alumnae Award.

“My mother loved Cedar Crest.  She stayed involved throughout her life, and was proud of all of the changes that were taking place,” Mrs. Landreth said. “Whenever she encountered a nurse who had graduated from Cedar Crest it brought a smile to her face.”

Located in Allentown, Pa., Cedar Crest College was selected as a “Top Regional College” and “Best Value” in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges rankings for 2012, 2013 and 2014. The liberal arts college is committed to the education of women leaders in an increasingly global society. Founded in 1867, Cedar Crest currently enrolls approximately 1,500 students—full-time, part-time and graduate—in more than 30 fields of study. Cedar Crest also provides opportunities for non-traditional and graduate students through its co-educational School of Adult and Graduate Education (SAGE). For more information,

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Tracey Werner, Blabbermouth Communications