Through her commitment to the College as a trustee, volunteer, and benefactor, Anne Cannon ’74 champions the value of a liberal arts education.

Anne Wilson Cannon ’74’s life has followed anything but a straight line. Oxy was her first choice for college, but she left after her junior year to transfer to the University of Pennsylvania to study accounting. She went on to have a successful career as a CPA, financial analyst, and financial adviser but also spent nine years as a partner in a Hong Kong art gallery that featured contemporary Vietnamese painters. And after a 30-year absence, she returned to Eagle Rock in 2005 to finish her anthropology degree.

Over the last dozen years, a new relationship with Oxy has emerged: an unwavering commitment to service to the College. She joined the Board of Trustees in 2007, took on major leadership roles, and now has quietly become the donor of one of the largest gifts in the College’s history. For Cannon, there is a compelling logic to it all: Her experience as an undergraduate at Penn and throughout her career repeatedly demonstrated the value of her Oxy liberal arts education.

“When I returned as a student, I was knocked over—I was so impressed by how bright the students were,” Cannon says. “They were every bit as curious, thoughtful, creative, earnest, and clueless as we were 30 years before. Seeing that firsthand was what got me really jazzed about the College, and wanting to become involved in a meaningful way.”

President Jonathan Veitch was, in turn, impressed by Cannon.

“I can’t think of a more effective advocate for a liberal arts education, a more engaged trustee, or a more committed leader to building a new culture of philanthropy at Oxy than Anne,” he said. “She leads by example, and Oxy has benefited enormously from her leadership and her generosity.”

After transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, Cannon graduated from the Wharton School in 1976 with a degree in economics and accounting. She couldn’t help noticing the differences between Oxy and Wharton. Many of her classes at Wharton were taught by graduate students. And in two years, she was asked to write only one paper. “I gained a great appreciation for what I had left behind, such as the opportunities to delve into a subject, research it, substantiate an opinion, and make an argument,” she says. “Penn was harder to get into, but Oxy was the better school.”

The writing and critical thinking skills she learned at Oxy benefited her professional career. “There is a surprising amount of writing that is done in audits,” she says. “I remember one assignment for a big client—research accounting methods for real estate development—so I had to read all the literature, understand it, and put it into practice. They were impressed that I could figure that out.”

Cannon has been a regular contributor to the Oxy Fund since her first job out of school. “I understood from the very beginning that I should give back to the College once I graduated,” she says. “I knew I should give back because I had been given a gift—not only from my parents but from the people before me who gave to the College. That inspired my giving.”

Her most recent gift is an estate gift that represented one of the earliest major commitments to the College’s upcoming comprehensive campaign, whose goal is to build Oxy’s endowment and to support financial aid, faculty and academic programs, and the College’s capital needs. When realized, it is expected to become one of the largest gifts in College history.

“I always knew of the importance of the endowment,” Cannon says. “But as a trustee I’ve learned how much Oxy does for its students despite the relatively modest size of the endowment. Right now, we’re doing a lot with a little. We’re fighting above our weight. And the campaign is all about growing the endowment and generating more resources for our students and faculty.”