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Major donation: Former professor leaves millions to Helsinki University

A former professor at Helsinki University posthumously donated more than four million euros - her entire estate - to the institution. University staff say they had no idea the professor had plans to make the record-breaking donation.

Kirjaston aula.
Helsinki University's main library. File photo. Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

Literature and aesthetics professor Maija Lehtonen died in 2015 and bequeathed her entire estate to Helsinki University's humanities department, the institution has announced.

The univeristy's liaison manager Anne Ala-Pöllänen says it's remarkable that no one at the university knew about Lehtonen's plan.

"It came as a surprise," Ala-Pöllänen said.

In her will Lehtonen stipulated that the donation is used to fund research in Finnish and French literature, the French language and history.

"Even though she was a literature and aesthetics professor here, she loved French," Ala-Pöllänen said.

Likely largest-ever single donation

As far as Ala-Pöllänen knows, Lehtonen's donation is the largest single donation in the history's university.

"Of course we receive our fair share of private donations, but such large ones in the millions are very unusual," Ala-Pöllänen said, explaining that about a third of the university's donations come from private individuals.

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