The Feeling Is Mutual

A couple’s bequest speaks to their shared love of art and enduring gratitude for financial aid.
Lipsett and Paul

Jim Lipsett, A61, M65, and Paul LaRiviere: Partners in financial aid philanthropy.

Jim Lipsett, A61, M65, was a Tufts undergraduate when he had an “awakening” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. “I was looking at this piece of art that was nothing but a brown rectangle, inside of which was a black rectangle, both of them on a field of white,” he recalled. “And I remember thinking, I know what that feels like. I’ve had brown and black days.”

That moment was just the beginning of Lipsett’s lifelong passion for art and education, which both have the power to provoke revelation and insight. He went on to the School of Medicine, and a successful medical career, but also became a patron of the arts, collecting paintings, sculptures, and other contemporary works. Now, his passions have led him to deepen his connection to Tufts.

Lipsett and his husband Paul LaRiviere, a printmaker, have together endowed a scholarship fund to benefit coming generations of undergraduates in the School of Arts and Sciences. The James A. Lipsett, A61, M65, and Paul M. LaRiviere Endowed Scholarship Fund, to be established through a bequest, will support multiple students annually. The need-based scholarships will be awarded to School of Arts and Sciences students who are interested in pursuing graduate degrees in medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine, and students working toward their BFAs at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University.

“We’re so appreciative of Jim and Paul’s support,” said James Glaser, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “Their generous gift will ripple over time as it benefits generations of our SMFA and premedical students. How lucky we are to have them in our community.”

Lipsett, a first-generation college student, depended on Tufts financial aid for eight years of college and medical school. The son of an Irish immigrant, he came to Tufts to follow his dream of becoming a doctor. But affording full tuition was out of reach. Family support, financial aid, and part-time jobs closed the gap. “If Tufts hadn’t been as generous, I wouldn’t have been able to even finish college,” he said. “So, when it came time to update our estate plans, it was obvious that part of our estate would go to Tufts. It’s payback time.”

Lipsett enjoyed a long career as a radiation oncologist, beginning with a residency at the Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center. The profession took him to the City of Hope National Medical Center and later to New Mexico; he retired in 2001 from Radiation Oncology Associates in Albuquerque.

In 2003, matchmaking friends orchestrated a chance encounter at a Morro Bay, California, restaurant between Lipsett and LaRiviere, an accomplished printmaker now retired from his position as a counselor for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The two hit it off as they discovered a shared love of art and of travel. “The thing Paul likes to tell,” Lipsett said, “is that I’m the only person who he’d ever met who had actually been to Ushuaia, [Argentina], the most southern city in the world.”

The couple, married for more than a decade, have woven Tufts into their travel plans as well, with an upcoming Tufts Travel-Learn trip to Egypt. They’ve also become better acquainted with the university. About two years ago, they toured the SMFA at Tufts.

As an artist, LaRiviere was struck by the school’s hands-on approach. “I was envious of the access to space where students could work independently and still have close contact with other students and staff,” he said. “For me, art is another means of communication, and we need as many means as we can to say who we are as people.”

Lipsett knows from experience that big dreams often need a helping hand. He and LaRiviere hope that, when possible, their fund will support students who are immigrants or children of immigrants. They have empathy for the challenges faced by first-generation and undocumented students. “To know they will have the support they need, that affects me deeply,” Lipsett said. “And to be able to share Tufts with Paul, that makes it even more deeply meaningful.”