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Syracuse University Board of Trustees Chairman Emeritus John A. Couri and wife, Elaine, contribute name, funding to new campus visitor center and museum

May 14, 2008

Kevin Morrow
315 443-3784

Kevin Morrow

The many thousands of individuals who visit the Syracuse University campus each year will soon be greeted by a beautiful new visitor center and museum recollecting the University's remarkable history, showcasing the dynamic SU of today and demonstrating how both past and present are shaping the institution's future.

SU Board of Trustees Chairman Emeritus John A. Couri '63 and Elaine C. Couri have made a $2 million gift to establish the Couri Visitor Center and Museum of Syracuse University.

The visitor center and museum will combine traditional museum displays and the latest information technologies, with content structured around the three themes of inclusion, innovation and transformation that have characterized the University throughout its history. It will be constructed at Crouse-Hinds Hall, encompassing the current atrium on the first and ground floors and extending southward through new space to be added to the existing building. Construction is to begin in November 2008, with completion targeted for 2010.

"We are ever so grateful to John and Elaine for enabling us to create this wonderful new visitor center and museum," says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. "It will be a warm and welcoming space for our many returning alumni, future students and their families, and other visitors to learn about our university's beautiful campus, incredible history and dynamic vision."

"Syracuse University has been such a big part of Elaine's and my lives. We've been delighted to see this wonderful institution grow and evolve through the years, and we've enjoyed immensely contributing to its development," says John Couri, who just completed a four-year term as Board of Trustees chairman. "My time here as a student laid the groundwork that led me to a rewarding career in business. I hope this new center will leave the same impression on others that Syracuse University has made on me."

Along with the Couris, the Syracuse University Alumni Association is getting behind the project. "John and Elaine Couri's vision for the visitor center and museum is another of their great gifts to Syracuse University. The center and museum will be an important focal point on campus for visitors and alumni traveling to campus," says Alumni Association President Wally Bobkiewicz G'89. "The SU Alumni Association is proud to work with the Couris to help make their vision a reality."

Among the design elements under consideration for the visitor center and museum:

  • customer-interactive kiosks with information about campus, as well as a current events calendar and campus and community maps;
  • gallery space utilizing a variety of media (still photography, art pieces and video and sound recordings) and permanent or rotating exhibits on such subjects as Scholarship in Action, famous alumni and alumni Arents Award recipients, popular faculty and architectural interests;
  • easily updated exhibits that encourage thematic presentations and dovetail with current campus and world events using archival materials;
  • timeline displays of major events in University history, famous alumni through the years and significant building periods;
  • a distribution area for maps, brochures and publications to enhance self-directed visits to the University; and
  • a "Chancellor's Corner" providing insights to chancellors past and present, and their impacts on the University.

Several SU alumni are involved in the project. The Manhattan firm of Fiedler Marciano Architecture -- whose principals, Mark Fiedler and Martin Marciano, both earned bachelor of architecture degrees at SU in 1986 -- has been contracted to design the space. The Brooklyn design studio Guillin+Merrell -- partner/graphic designer Susan Merrell is a 1986 alumna of SU's College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) -- is responsible for exhibit designs. Consultant Judy Vannais, also a 1986 CVPA alumna, will work on developing exhibit content.

Couri, a resident of Ridgefield, Conn., is president of the Couri Foundation Inc., which operates senior centers in Bangor and Moose River, Maine, and also president of the Ridgefield Senior Center Foundation Inc. He is a co-founder and past president, CEO and chairman of the board of Duty Free International Inc. -- now Duty Free Americas Inc.

An SU trustee since 1998, Couri is also a member of the Whitman School of Management Corporate Advisory Board. His generous philanthropic support has enabled the Whitman School to establish the Couri Endowed Scholarship; the Couri Entrepreneurial Complex, which serves as home base at the Whitman School for the nationally heralded Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises Program; and the Couri Hatchery, a business incubator offering practical services and mentoring to promising student businesses.

Couri was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at SU's 2008 Commencement, held May 11 in the Carrier Dome. In 1993, he was presented with the George Arents Pioneer Medal, the University's highest alumni honor, for his outstanding accomplishments in business. In 1995, the Whitman School honored Couri with a Dean's Citation for Exceptional Service in recognition of his broad humanitarian ideals and endeavors. He received a bachelor's degree in economics and business administration from SU in 1963.

Elaine Couri is co-founder, with her husband in 1988, of the Couri Foundation Inc. It was Elaine, who is known for her community voluntarism as well as a keen business acumen, who came up with the idea to create the Hammond Street Senior Center in Bangor, Maine, a community with a traditionally older population and a longstanding need for a gathering place where seniors could interact with one another. In addition to Hammond Street, she and John supported the creation of the Founders Hall senior center in Ridgefield, Conn.; the Moose River Valley Center in Moose River, Maine; and a summer camp for underprivileged children near Moose River.

The Couris have a son, Christopher, and daughter-in-law, Megan, and two grandsons, Cameron and Desmond, all of whom reside in Ridgefield, Conn.

John and Elaine Couri's gift to the University for creation of the visitor center and museum is an important element of The Campaign for Syracuse University. With a goal of $1 billion, it is the most ambitious fundraising effort in SU's history. By supporting faculty excellence, student access, interdisciplinary programs, capital projects and other institutional priorities, the campaign is continuing to drive Scholarship in Action, the University's mission to provide students, faculty and communities with the insights needed to incite positive and lasting change in the world. More information is available online at

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