In 1978, George Oliver made a promise to then-president William F. Quillian, Jr. His daughter, Mary Oliver Fromyer ’78, had benefited from a tuition exchange program, and Oliver promised that he and his wife, Cornelia, would one day pay back the College.
Thirty-four years later, Oliver has made good on that promise, and he has become one of the College’s longest-giving parents.
“I’ve been grateful for what the College has done for my daughter,” Oliver said recently from his home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “There are so many things you can give money for. For my wife and me, the choice of giving to a college was paramount.”
Oliver’s commitment to education began with his father, who did not have the opportunity to go to college. He encouraged Oliver to pursue his degree.
After graduating from high school at age 17, Oliver went to college at Randolph- Macon College (R-MC) for a year before enlisting in the Navy. After two years of service, he returned to R-MC and graduated with a history degree. He then earned his master’s degree at Duke University, and in 1950, returned to R-MC when he was offered a position teaching history. He later earned his Ph.D.
“I sort of fell into teaching,” Oliver said. “But I loved it.”
A well-respected professor, Oliver retired from R-MC in 1992. Oliver’s wife was a professor at Mary Washington University, and the couple’s two children, Mary and Byrd, grew up on those two college campuses. “He has always been supportive of women’s rights and stood behind my mom during her long career,” Fromyer said.
Unlike other husbands at the time, Oliver shared household duties and childcare and even kept office hours at home to be with his children. He encouraged his daughters to choose colleges offering close communities. “I got to know a lot of professors at R-MWC through Mary,” Oliver said. “It made a difference for me to have that connection.”
More than three decades after his daughter graduated, Oliver still feels gratitude for the educational foundation his daughter received at R-MWC. Fromyer is now an international trade specialist based in Washington, D.C.
“Giving back is just something I do,” Oliver said. “Mary had a great experience there, and I just wanted to make it possible for other people to have that same opportunity.”