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University of Michigan alumna, philanthropist Penny Stamps dies at 74

Penny Stamps at the 2012 dedication of the University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design (Photo: The University Record | University of Michigan)
Penny Stamps at the 2012 dedication of the University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design (Photo: The University Record | University of Michigan)

ANN ARBOR – Penny W. Stamps passed away Thursday at her home in Miami at the age of 74 after a battle with leukemia.

The University of Michigan alumna was known for her philanthropy, her love of the arts and design, and for being a community leader.

Stamps created the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation along with her husband E. Roe Stamps, who survives her.

The Stamps family foundations are responsible for the largest philanthropic gift ever granted to the U-M School of Art & Design -- $32.5 million -- and shortly after the donation was made in 2012, the Board of Regents renamed the school in honor of Stamps.

The Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series has been a part of the school since 1999.

Stamps was the class of 2018's spring commencement speaker and was presented with an honorary doctor of fine arts degree by university President Mark Schlissel.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Penny W. Stamps, a great friend of the University of Michigan and a cherished member of the Michigan Family," Schlissel said in a statement.

"Our Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design proudly bears her name, reflecting her unwavering support of our students and her vision for championing art and design’s power to foster creative solutions that enhance the lives of people on our campus and around the globe. I will always remember Penny’s warmth and kindness, along with her devotion to helping the University of Michigan -- and the world -- become a better place."

In honor of her father, Stamps also established the Roman J. Witt Residency Program, the Stamps Creative Work Scholarships and the Stamps Gallery on U-M's Central Campus.

Her generous contributions also made the Stamps Student Commons at the Stephen M. Ross Academic Center and the Stamps Auditorium on North Campus a reality.

"Penny was passionate about helping students across the country be the best that they could be," Stamps Dean Guna Nadarajan said in a statement. "Her time, energy and commitment seemed to know no bounds. Seeing young people harness the power of higher education was a driving force in her life. She was -- and is -- an inspiration to me and to all."

Born and raised in Chicago, Stamps graduated from U-M in 1966 with a bachelor's degree in design and a teaching certificate. 

She enjoyed a decorated career at Herman Miller and Kaplan & Fox Inc. before starting up her own design firm in Boston for nearly two decades.

She persisted in her efforts to aid her alma mater, including serving as co-chair on the Michigan Difference National Campaign Leadership Committee and as deputy chair of the fundraising campaign Victors for Michigan.

In addition to these roles, she served on advisory councils to Stamps School and School of Education deans and on the President's Advisory Group.

In her community, she served on a number of boards, volunteered and donated her design services pro bono to organizations she cared deeply about.

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