Anne Palamountain dies at 91
SARATOGA SPRINGS—Anne Tonnesen Palamountain, first lady of Skidmore College for 22 years during a period of dynamic change at Skidmore and in higher education nationally, died on Jan. 24 in Saratoga Hospital of complications from pneumonia. She was 91 years old.
Mrs. Palamountain came to the college in 1965, accompanying her husband, Joseph C. Palamountain Jr., when he became the fourth president of Skidmore. Whether at the side of her husband, or through her own initiatives as a fundraiser and liaison to the community, she played a pivotal role in the life of the college and its hometown of Saratoga Springs.
During the Palamountain presidency, 1965–87, Skidmore built an entirely new campus and moved there in stages from its eclectic mix of older downtown buildings, ushered in coeducation in 1971, and weathered student unrest in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The era was made all the more challenging by the college’s then-small endowment and severe financial strains.
With Joe Palamountain at the helm, Skidmore’s student body doubled; the endowment grew, bringing a stronger financial footing; Skidmore chartered a chapter of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa; and the college launched the pioneering University Without Walls program, offering an alternate, nonresidential route to a bachelor’s degree. Joe Palamountain died in 1987, following his retirement from the College.
Mrs. Palamountain’s involvement in the life of Skidmore is a story in its own right. Her greatest passion at the college was building endowment for financial aid, which she saw as the most effective way to make a college education accessible to all students. In 1979 she spearheaded the launch of one of the college’s major fundraising events—the annual Palamountain Scholarship Benefit—now a highlight of Saratoga’s renowned summer scene. She presided over the event for 35 years, helping the Joseph C. and Anne T. Palamountain Scholarship Fund reach a total of $5.8 million.
An avid traveler, Mrs. Palamountain over the years attended Skidmore events across the country. She was named an honorary alumna of Skidmore’s class of 1973 and received an honorary doctorate from the college in 1997. In 1986 she received an alumni award for outstanding service to Skidmore and in 1987 received the college’s Denis B. Kemball-Cook Award from the board of trustees. She was a member of the advisory committee for the development of Skidmore’s Tang Teaching Museum, which opened its doors in 2000, and the museum’s Palamountain Gallery was named in her honor. In 2004, she was awarded Skidmore’s Lucy Scribner Medal, given for selfless service to others and a commitment to the community.
Within the greater Saratoga Springs community, Mrs. Palamountain was a visible and active leader whose work was recognized by a wide range of organizations. In 1994 she received the President’s Award of the Hudson Mohawk Association of Colleges and Universities, and in 1999 she was presented with the Woman of the Year Award from Soroptimists International of Saratoga County. In 2001 she received the Kathryn Starbuck Award for community service and in 2003 was honored by the Saratoga Springs Rotary Education Foundation for her commitment to education and the community.
Mrs. Palamountain was a recipient of the Liberty Bell Award of the Saratoga County Bar Association and was twice honored with resolutions of the New York State Assembly. She has served as board president of the Lake George Opera and as a board member for the artists’ retreat Yaddo and for WMHT public television. Over the years, she was affiliated with Planned Parenthood, the Saratoga Springs League of Women Voters, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Action Council, and the National Museum of Racing. She regularly attended events supporting charities and nonprofit organizations in the Saratoga Springs region.
Fond of international travel, Mrs. Palamountain served as U.S. delegate to the Pan-Pacific South East Asia Women’s Association, attending meetings and conferences in various countries of South East Asia.
She attended White House State events during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter administrations and in 1969 was a guest at New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s dinner honoring Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 astronauts.
Mrs. Palamountain’s first jobs were in the fashion industry, starting with the executive training squad of R.H. Macy’s in 1944. That same year she was named Miss New York City Subway and Miss R.H. Macy. She became a fashion buyer for Macy’s in New York City and Slattery’s in Boston. From 1948 to 1953 she was buyer for Bonwit Teller in Boston.
Mrs. Palamountain is survived by two sons: Bruce K. Palamountain and Bromley C. Palamountain.
A memorial service is scheduled on Wednesday, May 13, at the Arthur Zankel Music Center on the Skidmore campus. Details will be announced.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Palamountain Scholarship Fund, Office of Advancement, at Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY.