October 6, 2009 — In planning her gift to the University of Virginia, Gertrude Greenslade showed remarkable foresight and a strong commitment to education, qualities that helped to shape her career as an internationally known expert on Soviet and Eastern European economics and, later, as a professor of economics at U.Va.
Before her death in March 2007, Greenslade arranged an estate gift of $9.8 million to support international studies programs and give the University the flexibility to meet emerging needs of students and faculty.
For the 2009-10 year, the endowment created by Greenslade's gift will generate income of more than $386,000, part of which will go to support the East Asia Center and the Center for South Asian Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences. With this support, the College can add course offerings in related social sciences and humanities fields while augmenting its administrative support for the two centers with the founding of a new Asia Institute within the College.
The East Asia Center provides an interdisciplinary forum for faculty and student interest in East and Southeast Asia; sponsors a speaker series and travel grants; and promotes activities and events related to Asia. The Center for South Asian Studies coordinates and promotes the study of South Asia, conducting research and outreach and offering a range of courses in South Asia's languages and related disciplines.
"The gift will help elevate the centers in the hopes of securing recognition as federally designated national resource centers," said Meredith Jung-En Woo, dean of the College. "Such a designation could result in increased federal support for graduate fellowships and a higher profile for the University's language and social science programs in these critical areas."
The endowment will also provide support for exchange programs between U.Va. and the University of Rome, École Normale Superiéure de Paris, and École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris..
Woo noted that building global programs is one of the priorities established by the President's Commission on the Future of the University. U.Va. is broadening curricular and extracurricular programs to feature global themes and is creating new global courses, majors and minors. U.Va. faculty members are collaborating with graduate and undergraduate students to solve global problems and needs and to promote respect for differences among nations and cultures.
Born in 1920 in Albuquerque, N.M., Gertrude Guyton traveled a career path that was unconventional for women of her generation. After graduating with a bachelor's degree from Colorado State College of Education in 1940, she moved east to continue her studies at Johns Hopkins University. There, she completed a master's degree in economics in 1948 and, five years later, earned a doctorate in the same field.
She next moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a senior economist at the Central Intelligence Agency. Her area of specialization was of intense interest to the Cold War-era U.S. government: the Soviet Union's economy. From the agency's perspective, she also had the highly valuable skill of fluently reading and speaking Russian.
One of the few women at the CIA, Greenslade soon built a reputation as an expert on the economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc nations. Her research would have been familiar to G. Warren Nutter, a U.Va. professor of economics and a national figure with ties to the Washington political and intelligence communities.
According to Kenneth Elzinga, who joined the University's economics department in the 1960s and is currently its most senior faculty member, Nutter was a "leading authority on the performance of the Soviet economy." Almost certainly it was he who first approached Greenslade about teaching at the University.
In 1969, Greenslade began serving as a visiting professor in the Department of Economics, then housed in Rouss Hall, and assumed a regular, full-time post in 1973. When she earned tenure, she became only the second woman in the College to do so. She maintained close ties to the CIA, though, and married Rush V. Greenslade, another agency economist, in 1974. After retiring from the University in 1993, Greenslade rejoined the CIA as a consultant.
Nonetheless, the University remained an important part of her life. Thomas Nolan, who graduated from the College in 1978 and the U.Va. School of Law in 1982, was her friend as well as her attorney. He spoke of Greenslade's affection for U.Va.
"Gertrude was grateful to U.Va. for giving her the opportunity to teach," he said. "She never wavered in wishing to leave the bulk of her wealth to the University. She had only warm thoughts about it."