William & Mary

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Overbey Omohundro

Elizabeth "Libby" Overbey Omohundro, 91, a former elementary school teacher and friend of the College of William and Mary, died May 19, 2008 in Gloucester, Va.

Libby and her late husband, Malvern Hill "M.H" Omohundro, Jr., served as benefactors for the College's Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. The Institute is dedicated to the advancement of study and publication in the colonial, Revolutionary, and early national period of American history and the related history of the British Isles, Europe, West Africa and the Caribbean.

"Those of us at William & Mary are saddened by the loss of our wonderful friend, Elizabeth Omohundro," said Interim William and Mary President W. Taylor Reveley III. "The College's eminence in early American history and culture springs in large measure from the generosity and enthusiasm of the Omohundro family."

Libby, who taught in Naxera and Botetourt schools in Gloucester for nearly 17 years, earned her teaching certificate from Longwood College in 1936. In 1955, she married M.H, a real estate executive, and the pair honeymooned with a trip around the world.

In 1981, the Omohundros gave the Earl Swem Library its one-millionth volume, which Great Britain's Prince Charles dedicated during his visit to the College that same year. In 1996, the couple endowed the College's Institute of Early American History and Culture with a multi-million dollar gift, and the Institute was renamed in their honor.

"During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Institute confronted a number of serious threats to its existence despite the unwavering support of its founding sponsors the College and Colonial Williamsburg," said Director Ron Hoffman. "The Omohundro bequest changed all that, and since then, I have never doubted that the Institute would endure in its present configuration. This is the gift that M. H. and Libby bestowed."

The Omohundros were also benefactors for the Virginia Historical Society's Center for Virginia History, and a scholarship was established in Libby's name at Longwood University.

M.H. died in 1999, and a funeral was held for Libby on May 24, 2008. Libby is survived by her nieces and nephews, who told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that they will remember her for her humor and her love of teaching.

"Libby and children loved each other," her niece Mary Hyde Berg told the Times-Dispatch. "She was the best first-grade teacher. I never heard of one in Aunt Libby's first grade that did not go on to do well in life."

For more information on the Omohundro Institute, visit http://oieahc.wm.edu/.