Building Bridges to the Future
Profile of John S. Toll Heritage Society Charter Member
Dr. Margot Ammann Durrer
Dr. Margot Ammann Durrer’s relationship with Stony Brook began 40 years ago when she and several family members attended the dedication of Ammann College in honor of her father, the distinguished engineer Othmar Hermann Ammann (1879-1965), on February 18, 1968. At the ceremony, Robert Moses praised the designer of the George Washington, Triborough/RFK, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Verrazano-Narrows, and Bayonne bridges as “at once a mathematician and a dreamer in steel … a combination of realist and artist rarely found in this highly practical world.” Interested in Stony Brook’s progress and in the development of the University’s talented students, Margot and her family, including Othmar’s widow, Klary V. Ammann, and Margot’s brother, Werner Ammann (now deceased), began using philanthropy to create a familial legacy at the University—a legacy that Margot has continued to enhance and strengthen to this day.
A retired gynecologist, Dr. Margot Ammann Durrer graduated from Vassar College and earned her medical degree from New York Medical College. She met her husband, the late Dr. Gustav T. Durrer, when her father became a dental patient of his after World War II. Some years ago, Dr. Gustav Durrer recounted the wit that characterized his first encounter with Othmar Ammann for the Swiss-American Historical Society Review: The renowned bridge builder “came to my office in need
of some bridges himself. When I explained the reconstruction needed, he responded: ‘I see that we have similar problems in our work.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘my bridges also have to carry a lot of traffic, but your designs may be seen and admired.’” Margot and Gustav went on to have a long and happy marriage.
Through her loyal giving and her membership in Stony Brook’s John S. Toll Society, which recognizes friends and alumni of Stony Brook who have chosen to support the University through planned giving, Margot has been instrumental in building some bridges of her own—bridges that help talented students pursue their educational journeys and that prepare the way for new knowledge. Her gracious decision to donate a portion of her estate to the University helps ensure that her and her family’s considerable legacy will be an enduring one.
Margot has complemented her bequest with major donations that honor her family and that have been helping Stony Brook’s students, libraries, and programs in the present. These include gifts to the Othmar Ammann Scholarship Program, the newly established Othmar Ammann Endowed Scholarship in Civil Engineering, and the Dr. Gustav Durrer Travel Award Endowment, which benefit talented undergraduates, aspiring civil engineers, and future dental professionals, respectively. In addition, Margot has provided gifts to help the University obtain significant documents on early Long Island history and has donated (and in some cases translated) important papers and early letters from her father to his parents, his family, and her mother, Lilly Wehrli Ammann.
The words of gratitude from a previous Ammann Scholar, now a Stony Brook graduate, help describe the impact of Margot’s continuing dedication toward the Stony Brook University community: “I’ve always had the need to help
others and my skeptical friends ask me, ‘Why?’ all the time. It is people like [Dr. Margot Ammann Durrer] who give me inspiration.”