Like his grandfather and great-grandfather before him, Paul Gignilliat, Class of 1949, has played an integral role in shaping the institution.
In appreciation for his many years of service to Culver Academies and to his hometown of Chicago (Oak Park), Gignilliat was honored May 16 as the 2014 Graduate of the Year. As such, he received the Logansport Medal “for heroism, service, and leadership.”
The ceremony was part of Alumni Reunion Weekend, in which Gignilliat and his 23 returning 1949 classmates set an attendance record for a 65th reunion class. Also joining him was his wife, Ellen, and their three daughters, all of whom attended Culver: Suzanne SS’74, Bibby’78, and Mary SS’82.
“Paul Gignilliat was destined to be a Culver man,” Head of Schools John Buxton said in his introduction at the all-school assembly.
His great-grandfather was Col. Alexander F. Fleet, who brought 72 cadets from Missouri in 1896 to bolster the Culver Military Academy enrollment. Gignilliat’s grandfather, Gen. Leigh R. Gignilliat, orchestrated Culver’s participation in the Logansport Flood and its participation in the Presidential Inaugural Parade in 1913, as well as the development of the Woodcraft Camp in 1912.
As a CMA student, Gignilliat was a member of Company D, a varsity boxer, member of the Cadet Club and Honor Guard. He attended Yale University, where he majored in history and lettered in crew. He was a member of the Naval ROTC program at Yale and later served two years aboard a destroyer escort in the Great Lakes.
He made his career in the stock market as a broker and investment adviser, primarily with Kidder Peabody. Today, he is vice president of UBS Global.
A resident of Chicago, his accomplishments as a volunteer and community leader are far-reaching: school board president, trustee with the Chicago Symphony, director of the Chicago Humanities Festival, and a director for the Hubbard Street Dance Company.
His service to Culver is even more impressive
“His service to Culver is even more impressive,” Buxton noted: a trustee of The Culver Educational Foundation for 34 years, a former Legion board member, national Annual Fund chairman in (1986-88), Fine Arts Advisory Council member, Summer Schools & Camps Strategic Planning and Development Committee member, and an honorary member of Culver’s Cum Laude Society.
But it is the Gignilliats’ love of Culver and appreciation of the fine arts that have combined to benefit students and faculty in numerous ways.
“Some might say that Paul and Ellen have been Culver’s Patrons of the Arts,” John said. “Their Culture in Chicago program has introduced literally thousands of students and dozens of faculty members to the wonders of cultural life in the other place they love and call home – Chicago.”
The Artistic program funded by the couple has made it possible for aspiring artists – students as well as faculty and art mentors – to get supplemental training to advance their skills.
Their support has given the choir opportunities to travel the Mozart International Choir Festival in Austria and the Rome International Choir Festival. Individually, they have assisted four students selected for the Honors Choir at Carnegie Hall.
Additionally, through a Permadebt program, the Gignilliats have helped young faculty members eliminate portions of their college student loan debt.
The results of their work was seen and heard at the Graduate of the Year Ceremony. It included musical performances by a student, a faculty member, and the Culver Choir, all of whom have benefited from their generosity.
Gignilliat also has been a supporter of the summer Naval Band and other camp programs. His patronage even extends to “the trees on campus, who replaces or doctors our beautiful trees to keep the campus majestic,” Buxton said.
A full profile of Graduate of the Year Paul Gignilliat and excerpts of his acceptance speech will appear in the Summer 2014 issue of Culver Alumni Magazine.