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SLU receives nearly $1 million from woman whose parents attended university

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CANTON — St. Lawrence University has received a bequest of nearly $1 million from a woman who never attended St. Lawrence but wanted to support the university to honor her Laurentian parents.

Edith M. Costello was born in 1933 and died on Dec. 13, 2011, in McLean, Va. According to a Washington Post obituary, Costello was raised on Long Island, attended Colby College in Maine, never married and served as a CIA career officer, living much of her adult life in the Washington, D.C., area.

Her parents, Leo B. and Edith M. Costello (MacBirney), graduated from St. Lawrence in 1926 and 1927, respectively, and maintained strong ties to the north country.

Leo Costello was born in 1903 in Rochester. After an outstanding high school basketball career, he enrolled at St. Lawrence, where he became recognized as an exceptional basketball and football player. After his graduation from St. Lawrence, he coached and taught at Ogdensburg Free Academy until 1929, when he left to join the staff of Port Washington, Long Island, High School. He married Edith MacBirney, who was born in 1901, shortly after they had both graduated from St. Lawrence.

Even after moving to Long Island, the Costellos maintained their north country connections. For several summers, Leo Costello owned and operated a boys’ camp at Forest Lake near Warrensburg, and later co-owned another camp at Lunnenburg, Vt. The family also often spent their summers on the St. Lawrence River near Ogdensburg.

“This was a rather unusual bequest, since Edith Costello had never attended St. Lawrence and had no direct relationship to the university,” said President William L. Fox ’75. “Yet, she obviously felt a commitment to honor her parent’s legacy here at St. Lawrence, and she must have felt a strong connection to Northern New York herself. Their experiences here left a lasting impression and inspired their daughter to give so generously.”

Edith Costello left a significant portion of her estate to St. Lawrence in honor of her parents, amounting to $951,774.70, which was received in November 2013.

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