When Dr. James Somerville taught at Geneseo from 1967-1997, he developed and taught cutting-edge classes that forced students to analyze topical issues.
At a time when very few colleges in the nation offered such courses, Somerville developed classes that examined African-American and Women's History in addition to traditional offerings such as pre-Civil War America and the American Revolution. Somerville challenged students to look not only to the past - but also to critically examine contemporary topics, such as the impact of the Vietnam War.
Today, Dr. Somerville and his wife Arleen are still forging new paths and setting an example for Geneseo alumni and students. Though James retired nearly fifteen years ago and Arleen retired her position at the University of Rochester in 2000, the Somervilles still very much believe in the power of higher education - especially for first generation college students.
"Arleen and I have been in higher education for most of our professional lives, and we know the importance of a college degree," says James. "We wanted to help provide opportunities for young people with financial needs whose parents did not attend college."
The Somervilles did just that by establishing the James and Arleen Somerville First Generation Scholarship Endowment. The Somervilles also established the James K. Somerville Sophomore History Endowed Scholarship, which benefits a history student who demonstrates financial need. The Somervilles are also generous supporters of The Fund for Geneseo.
James and Arleen feel strongly about the power of a college education. "We both know that college graduates often find the most satisfying and fulfilling jobs ... And we are very aware of the increasing cost of college education," explains Arlene.
Not only do the Somervilles keep in touch with their former students, following the careers of graduates who have gone on to become lawyers, teachers and librarians - they also have close ties to the community. After retiring they chose to stay in Geneseo. "We love everything the College brings to the community, the cultural attractions. They can't be beat. You can see plays and concerts and so much more," says Arleen. For these reasons and more, the Somervilles encourage alumni to stay connected to Geneseo and support the College - just like they do.