When Buffalo State donors Patricia and Richard Garman shipped a beloved antique terra-cotta horse sculpture from Florida to Buffalo, it arrived with two broken legs.
“Obviously, my mom was devastated,” said Melissa “Missy” Garman Baumgart, the youngest of the couple’s three daughters and president of RP Oak Hill Building Company Inc.
Their misfortune, however, presented the Garmans with an opportunity to experience firsthand the magic that graduate students in the renowned Buffalo State Art Conservation Department can perform on damaged historic and artistic objects.
“Not only did the students repair it, but they gave us the whole history of the sculpture [created during the Tang dynasty],” Baumgart said. “You would never know by looking at it today that it ever had been damaged.”
This interaction inspired the couple to establish a student fellowship, and it led to an ongoing relationship with the faculty within the art conservation program. The couple and their daughters became enamored of the fine and important work students in the program complete.
In late 2016, the Garman family showed their admiration with the grandest of gestures—a $4 million gift to the department, the largest single gift in the college’s history.
“I can’t express the level of gratitude we have for the Garman family,” said Susanne Bair, Buffalo State’s vice president for institutional advancement. “The Garmans have a deep understanding of the importance of preserving our cultural heritage. They recognized the depth and breadth of our art conservation program and the kind of work our graduates go on to do.”
Richard Garman is the former president and CEO of ABC Paving Company and Buffalo Crushed Stone. After returning home
from service in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War, he majored in civil engineering at Bucknell University, and subsequently became involved in electrical and paving contracting, purchasing ABC Paving in 1964. He continued to develop and lead construction-related companies and enterprises in the fields of highway and heavy construction, materials production, utility construction, industrial development, and construction management.
During his successful career, he served as president and CEO of the Gateway Trade Center, the Pulaski Materials Company, and the Tuscarora Construction Company; as president of R&P Oak Hill, a commercial real estate management company, and Newbery Alaska Inc., an electrical contracting company; and as managing partner of R.E.G. LLC, a private investment firm.
He was a member and chairman of the board of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership and Merchants Insurance Group, and president of the Associated General Contractors of New York State. His awards include the Niagara Lutheran Healthcare Humanitarian of the Year award, the Philanthropist of the Year award from the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society, and a Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award from Bucknell.
Patricia Garman, who passed away in January 2014, earned her degree in registered nursing, taught psychiatric nursing at D’Youville College, and operated a private practice for children and families. She established the Patricia H. Garman Behavioral Health Nursing Endowment Fund at the University at Buffalo to support the School of Nursing on issues related to mental health.
Patricia Garman was a founding member of the Compeer Greater Buffalo board of directors and the Western New York
Women’s Foundation; and a member of the Niagara Lutheran Health Foundation, the UB Foundation, and the Mental Health
Association. Her awards include the Dr. Philip B. Wels Outstanding Service Award from the UB Alumni Association. She was also recognized as a leader by many cultural and community organizations.
The Garmans’ three daughters—Baumgart, Michelle Parrish, and Kathleen Gleason—all reside in East Aurora.
The family’s gift will result in continuous support for the students who enter the highly competitive and internationally recognized graduate program in art conservation at Buffalo State. One of only four such programs in the country, the art conservation program produces graduates who land jobs with the finest art and historical institutions in the country,
including the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in California.
“This magnanimous donation is transformational, for it further strengthens the department’s firm foundation established
by previous directors, faculty, and alumni andmakes our future really bright,” said Patrick Ravines, associate professor and director of art conservation. “The gift will allow us to offer fellowships to the most talented individuals across the country interested in pursuing art conservation careers. It also will enable us to provide professional development opportunities
to our outstanding faculty. We’re extremely grateful to the Garmans.”
In March, the college held a ceremony to officially rename the department the Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Art Conservation Department.
“I sincerely appreciate the impact of this gift for our art conservation program,” said Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner. “When members of the community such as the Garmans recognize the important work that our faculty and students pursue on a daily basis, I feel that we are achieving our objective as an institution.”
Although they carved out careers in construction and education, the Garmans possessed a longtime appreciation for art,
Baumgart said. She recalls growing up in a house filled with paintings and sculptures. She noted that her parents didn’t collect art for value’s sake as much as for sheer enjoyment. Her father preferred realistic paintings of nature scenes while her mother was drawn to streetscapes and impressionist paintings.
“They knew what they liked, and their decision on what art to purchase was emotionally based,” she said.
Patricia Garman first became familiar with the art conservation program during a student exhibition and demonstration she
attended with her friend Gail Johnstone, the wife of former Buffalo State president and SUNY chancellor D. Bruce Johnstone. He was instrumental in bringing the art conservation program to Buffalo State from SUNY Oneonta in Cooperstown, New York, in 1970.
Patricia Garman was fascinated with the students’ painstaking attention to detail and with the faculty’s commitment and passion. After her mother’s death, Baumgart, her father, and her sisters visited the Art Conservation Department and saw presentations by third-year students who had just returned from internships and were describing their conservation work on paper, objects, and paintings.
“I realized that students in this program are unique because they have to possess an artistic side as well as a science side,” Baumgart said. “They have to have a thorough understanding of history. They probably have the most wellrounded
education of anyone. Every time we visited the Art Conservation Department, we fell more in love. You can tell the faculty really loves what they are doing. It’s contagious.”
An institution that is actively working to maintain art for future generations seemed like the perfect recipient for this gift, Baumgart said.
“You read about conservators finding a painting underneath another painting,” she said. “You see them working on famous and important art, and so often, they’re graduates of the Buffalo State program.”
The Garman gift completes a challenge grant established by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In summer 2014, the foundation awarded the art conservation program a $1.25 million challenge grant, which required the college to raise an additional $750,000 by June 2017.
Baumgart knows that her mother would have liked to have been present for the gift and to hear from students and faculty how influential it will be.
“Mom would have liked to be a part of this,” Baumgart said. “We made this gift in her honor because the art conservation program was important to her. The art conservation program was one of my parents’ dear loves, especially Mom’s.”