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Donor Spotlight: Dee Molinari

Former staff member continues her positive impact on Purchase years after retirement.

Deanne “Dee” Molinari played a crucial role in the development of Purchase College during its first two decades. And now she’s giving back to a new generation of Purchase students. 

As director of housing when the Purchase campus was still under construction in 1972, she helped strike a deal with the SUNY Maritime Academy, which at the time had an empty dorm with 300 beds. The only catch: her office needed to run a bus shuttle between Purchase and the Academy’s Throgs Neck campus in the Bronx, 22 miles away. 

“The Class of ’76 can tell stories about the bus breaking down on the Thruway,” recalls Molinari, who in 2016 moved to a retirement complex in Elizabethtown, PA. (Coincidentally, former director of student activities Clint Spiegel also resides there). “And then there were all those Purchase students in the dorm who were running around and up all night, while the cadets were going to bed early.” 

The Many Hats She Wore

The housing post was the first of several positions Molinari held in her 22 years at Purchase College before she retired in 1994. She served as dean of the Conservatory of Dance for a semester in the early 80s between the tenures of Jacques D’Amboise and Carol Walker. She also served as assistant vice president of organized activities, supervising the Performing Arts Center and the Neuberger Museum of Art during their early years and working to integrate the performing arts into the undergraduate curriculum. 

In addition, she served as executive assistant to four Purchase presidents: Michael Hammond, Hank Dullea (acting president), Sheldon Grebstein, and Bill Lacy. 

Molinari was an integral part of the Purchase community during her time here. She remembers the parade of fledging artists who later became household names: actors Wesley Snipes, Edie Falco, Sherry Stringfield, and Parker Posey, and dancer and choreographer Doug Varone. 

“It was—and still is—such a creative place,” she says. “It was such a joy to go to work every day. All year long, everybody was always performing. When I worked at night, there was always something going on. That was terrific.” 

Lasting Impact

Molinari keeps her ties to Purchase alive by reconnecting with former students, retired faculty, and staff at alumni reunions. Last May, she attended a dinner hosted by President Thomas Schwarz during Alumni Weekend. “I was associated with so many classes,” she says. “It’s good to get back up there.” 

Molinari deepens her connection through support for the Purchase College Foundation, which provides scholarship relief for students in need. Her many donations over the years have included a charitable gift annuity. That’s when a donor makes a donation, the college invests it, and the donor receives annual income from the gift during his or her lifetime. 

Molinari earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Rochester with scholarship aid in the 1960s. Now she’s returning the favor for future Purchase students. 

“I’ve seen the struggles of so many students who were bright, dedicated, and smart,” she says. “They are working two jobs and don’t have time for all they need to do because they don’t have enough money. I’m doing what I can to help.”

Visit Giving to learn more about how you can support scholarships for students.

—David McKay Wilson