Giving to Yale

A Father’s Creation Inspires a Daughter’s Gift

Vicky DePalma in the Great Hall of Dinosaurs at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, which houses the much visited Apatosaurus.

What would you do if the director of the Peabody Museum of Natural History asked you to build a steel structure strong enough to support six tons of dinosaur fossils in a realistic formation? What if you were asked in 1928, when something like it had never been done before? That was exactly the prop-osition made to Yale’s mechanical engineering department. Frederic William Keator, Jr., then a graduate student in his early twenties, volunteered. “I’ll try it,” he quickly replied. The result was the Peabody’s largest mounted skeleton, the Apatosaurus. The steel structure and the dinosaur fossils excavated by archeologist O.C. Marsh remain on display in the Great Hall of Dinosaurs today, as they did in 1928, a testimony to Keator’s engineering skill and talent.

When Keator’s daughter, Victoria DePalma, learned of plans to renovate the Great Hall where her father’s construction still stands, she jumped at the chance to participate—just as her father did so many years earlier—and established a charitable gift annuity to help fund the project. Victoria’s generosity not only benefits Yale, but also gives her the financial security that comes with fixed quarterly payments for her lifetime, backed by all of the University’s assets.  

The renovation will restore the dinosaur fossils, the museum’s centerpiece, and align them more accurately—employing new knowledge about how the dinosaur actually moved. Rudolph Zallinger’s famous mural, The Age of Reptiles, will also be more dramatic. Thanks to a ramp repositioning, visitors will be able to look directly into the eyes of the dinosaurs. It is an ambitious project and Victoria is delighted to be a part of it and to support an institution she loves.

Victoria has deep connections to Yale. Her grandfather, Frederic William Keator, earned his bachelor’s degree in 1880 and his Yale Law degree in 1882. After her father came to New Haven for his graduate work, he subsequently taught at the University for almost forty years. A self described “life-long learner,” Victoria took summer courses at Yale in addition to her fine arts courses at Albertus Magnus College. Later, at Wesleyan University, she earned a master’s degree in Art and Art History.

Today, Victoria is a volunteer and docent at the Peabody. She also participates in many of the cultural and educational opportunities that Yale has to offer. In addition to the Peabody, she has included a bequest for Yale music in her estate plans, thanks, in part, for the enjoyment she obtains from the piano and chamber music concerts at Sprague Hall, and from the concert series at the Collection of Musical Instruments.

Yale plays a significant role in Victoria DePalma’s life today, just as it did in her past. She is excited to ensure that it becomes a part of her future, as well. Her charitable gift annuity allows Victoria to contribute to the Peabody Great Hall renovation—a decision she feels her father would applaud.