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A gift from out of the blue

Citizen Staff Writer



For 73 years – from the time she graduated from the University of Arizona until the day she died – Alma Pound harbored a love for her school.

Pound, who became a teacher, apparently didn’t come back to visit the campus often, if ever. It’s impossible to find anyone at UA who knew her or even recognized her name.

But Pound, who graduated from UA in 1934, was deeply touched by the school – especially by the library. So she decided, without telling anyone, to leave the library a gift when she died.

Pound died in December 2007 at age 97. Her donation, consisting of checks from her estate, arrived over the course of several months last year.

By the time everything had been settled, the library had received almost $500,000 from the former teacher – one of the largest gifts specifically designated for UA libraries.

The unexpected gift from the unknown lady flabbergasted library staff members and people at the UA Foundation, the main fundraising arm of the university.

Pound is survived only by a stepdaughter who found out about the gift after Pound’s death. And although she said Pound loved the university, she wasn’t sure why she felt so strongly about the library.

This much is known about Alma Dentzer Pound: She was born Nov. 24, 1910, apparently in the central Arizona copper mining town of Superior. In 1928, she graduated from Superior High School.

In 1934, she graduated from UA with a liberal arts degree and a major in Spanish. The UA “Desert” Yearbook for 1934 doesn’t have a photo of her, but lists Alma Dentzer among “other seniors.”

After her graduation, she moved to the Arizona town of Miami, where she taught first and second grades. There she met and married James P. Pound, who became personnel manager for Miami Copper Co.

James Pound died in 1998. Alma lived until Dec. 2, 2007, when she died in a Mesa nursing home.

Diana R. Johannsen, James Pound’s daughter from an earlier marriage, lives in Kingman and is the only survivor of the family.

Asked why her stepmother left one-third of her estate – $470,733 – to the UA Library, Johannsen struggled for an explanation.

“She loved the university,” Johannsen said. “She went there and liked it very much. In those days, there weren’t many women who went through college.

“Both of my parents cared a great deal about higher education, and they loved books and reading,” she added. “The highlight of their life was going to the library to get books to read.”

That’s more than anyone at UA knows about Alma Pound. Laura J. Bender, senior director of development for UA libraries, tried to find other surviving graduates from the class of 1934 to see if any knew her. “I’ve come up at a dead end,” she said.

Robert Mitchell, associate dean of libraries, also wanted to know more about the gift that “came out of the blue.”

“She must have been a wonderful person to think about the library,” Mitchell added.

Pound did not place any restrictions on use of her donation. Mitchell said it likely will be used to improve the Special Collections unit, which houses rare books, manuscript collections, photographs and other materials.

With state budget cuts hitting all areas of the university, Bender said Pound’s gift will have a “tremendous impact” on services for students and researchers.

“There are people who are unsung heroes who want to leave something behind,” Bender said. “This is unbelievably welcome.”

Mark Kimble appears at 6:30 p.m. Fridays on “Arizona Illustrated” on KUAT-TV, Channel 6. He may be reached at mkimble@tucsoncitizen.com or 573-4662.

‘The highlight of their life was going to the library to get books to read.’


on her parents’ love of books

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