These women made million-dollar+ gifts to organizations of their endearment, in recent memory. This is my small way of celebrating their philanthropy, by sharing with you, dear readers, the positive emotional responses their gifts continue to elicit from me.
For most of history, Anonymous was a woman. — Virginia Woolf
*Last Updated on September 25, 2018
~~ Go, Gina! I mean, Dr Gina Parvaneh Cody. Concordia’s first female building engineer is gifting $15M to her alma mater. The School of Engineering is being named after her.
Dr Cody, 61, said she developed a love of building and engineering as a child growing up in Iran. FULL STORY
~~ This honorary alumna deserves all her honors: Jane P Batten donated $10M to William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business, to launch a Center for Online Learning that will grow its online graduate business degree programs. It will make such an education within reach for so many professionals, no matter where they are in the world.
~~ Judging by generous Jean’s loyal support, I’m not surprised by her last wish. The late Jean Hower Taber left $9.3M from her estate to her beloved Cleveland Orchestra.
“[Taber] was a loyal donor for many years, but had not hinted to us just how generous her final gift might be.”
Taber was a longtime friend of the orchestra. For many years before her death in 2017, she was a member of the group’s Heritage Society and routinely contributed to its annual fund.
~~ An amazing (anonymous) alumna! Just days after Katherine A. Rowe was sworn in as William & Mary’s 28th president, an alumna stepped forward to make a $1.5 million gift to establish a President’s Strategic Investment Fund. The gift was made in honor of Rowe, the first woman to hold the position at the university.
One good thing about the press release announcing this generous gift is that it contains some lovely quotes from the anonymous alumna donor. (Go, Girls!)
~~ Anna Mann, of Palm Beach, Florida, is the Woman! She gave The Lord’s Place a $1M gift to honour her late husband William Mann. The Lord’s Place Men’s Campus in Boynton Beach will be renamed the William H. Mann Place this fall, according to a newsletter. The facility houses 50 men who were formerly homeless.
~~ Marvelous, Marmie! She died at the age of 100 in 2016 and left more than $1M worth of Northwest Coast art to the Museum of Anthropology at UBC (my former employer) in beautiful Vancouver. To Margaret Perkins Hess!
~~ Such a keaner! Beverly Keener that is: This longtime volunteer has established a $1 million endowed fund in support of child-maltreatment prevention programs at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The fund will be named for her and her late husband — the Beverly and David Keener Family Endowed Fund in Child Maltreatment Prevention.
Maltreatment includes all forms of child abuse, including physical, sexual or psychological abuse or neglect of a child, particularly by a parent or caregiver.
Keener said children who have suffered abuse “are so vulnerable, so innocent,” and her family wanted “to provide a brighter outcome” for them.
~~ Another amazing story about an ordinary woman who left an extraordinary gift: Genevieve Via Cava loved teaching and loved her students. The teacher in Dumont, New Jersey, devoted 45 years of her life to helping students with learning disabilities. Via Cava died in 2011. And this April, the Dumont Public Schools received something they never expected: a check from her estate for $1 million. She left the astonishing donation in her will to fund scholarships for special education students seeking post-secondary education.
~~ One for @Apra_MoKan peeps: The late Lavon Brosseau, a retired high school teacher in Concordia, KS, left a $7.4M estate gift to benefit students majoring in the arts, humanities and education at the University of Kansas.
She grew up on a farm without electricity or plumbing and lived in a two-bedroom house until her death in 2016 at the age of 88.
~~ Beer Babe: Supported by a $1M gift from Karen Colina Wilson Smithbauer – a former teacher and CEO of Central Distributors of Beer – the Autism Alliance of Michigan is launching an innovative program to educate people who interact with special-needs children on issues that could lead to exploitation and early signs of abuse.
~~ A pillar in her community: A $1.1M gift from the estate of Diana Atwood Johnson to the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts — one of the largest gifts in the college’s history — will support students and the preservation of a 19th century building on campus, the University of New Haven announced.
Atwood Johnson served as a member of Lyme Academy’s board of trustees. She ran the Old Lyme Inn until 2001 and was an advocate of open space conservation and an avid birder and photographer.
~~ One powerful legal secretary! The late Sylia Bloom left $8.2M to charities including more than $6M to Henry Street Settlement, in New York. Her headline in The New York Times reads: “96-year-old secretary quietly amasses fortune, then donates $8.2M.”
~~ Where would libraries be without women’s philanthropy? Katheryne “Kate” Willcock supported undergraduate and graduate student research at the University of Arizona for two decades. Though she died in January, her generosity will continue.
The University of Arizona Libraries announced that they had received a $2.3 million gift from her estate to establish two endowments, One will support graduate assistantships for students in the school’s Library and Information Science Program and the other creats the Katheryne B. Willcock Dean of University of Arizona Libraries Chair.
(Investing in the next generation of librarians, archivists and information professionals.)
~~ Boca Babe: Boca Raton Regional Hospital received a $25M donation from Johnson & Johnson heir Elaine J. Wold and a nonprofit affiliated with her, the Bay Branch Foundation. The donation is among the largest in the hospital’s history.
Wold’s gift will be used for a $260 million expansion of the hospital. New construction is slated to include a seven-story patient tower, an intensive care unit and a parking garage. While Wold bought naming rights, the tower will be named not for the philanthropist but for the late Gloria Drummond, who crusaded to found the hospital after her two children were poisoned to death in 1962.
~~ Trees in Washington State are feeling the love right now: The Late Bette Wallace left a $1M gift through her estate to Washington’s National Park Fund. She loved the outdoors and her amazing gift will fund life-saving initiatives and grow volunteerism.
~~ There’s always Hoppe. Saint Louis University’s Development Division has announced that the School of Nursing is the recipient of a bequest gift totaling $8.4 million. The generous gift – the largest in the School of Nursing’s history and among the largest in the University’s history – was made by the estate of alumna Mary K. Hoppe. The entirety of the gift will be used to create the Dr. and Mrs. Robert C. Hoppe Endowed Scholarship, which will assist multiple students in every program offered at the school.
~~ Darling Darlene: Palm Beach resident Darlene Jordan is gifting $6M to her alma mater Fordham University, in Boston, primarily for student financial aid. Funds will be distributed to four programs, with the largest amount, $5 million, earmarked for the existing Darlene Luccio Jordan Esq. and Gerald R. Jordan Endowed Scholarship Fund.
In addition to aiding specific individuals, it also will foster a wider range of geographic and ethnic diversity among the student body by easing the financial burden of a Fordham education. (I’m willing to overlook her political leanings in order to celebrate her giving.)
~~ Kokomo Kathleen! A gift of $1 million from Kathleen Ligocki will support a new scholarship program at her alma mater, Indiana University Kokomo.
The gift establishes the Kathleen Ligocki Scholars Program, which creates a cohort of IU Kokomo students who not only receive financial assistance, but also can access academic and social support from one another and from program staff and faculty.
Kathleen earned her BA in 1978, and began her career as a line foreman at a GM plant in Kokomo. She has been a trailblazer in multiple industries.
~~ Whoa, Ms Wallace! The Community Services Agency, in Mountain View, CA, just received its largest-ever donation, a $2 million gift intended to help local seniors with housing. The substantial donation was made by the estate of Elizabeth Ruth Wallace, a longtime Mountain View resident who died in 2016. GOOD NEWS
~~ Marian, a true philanthropist, will be missed. Known for her generous giving to the University of Wyoming and hailed as a leader among donors died March 1 at her home in Arizona at the age of 90. Marian H. Rochelle leaves behind testaments to the historic philanthropy she — often alongside her husband Curt Rochelle — showed the university.
Either singly or with Curt before his death in 2005, Marian contributed $25 million to UW, supporting nearly every facet of the university, including athletics, academics, campus beautification and more.
~~ Cool $1M gift to UC Riverside from a California couple: longtime campus supporter Rochelle Campbell and Distinguished Professor of Genetics Susan Wessler will provide financial support for undergraduate students engaged in summer research – an opportunity out of reach to many students due to financial barriers. The newly established Campbell-Wessler Endowed Undergraduate Research Award will provide $5,000 awards to undergraduate researchers. PRESS
~~ Who’s that generous girl? Bryn Mawr College has received an anonymous gift totaling $25 million. This is the largest gift in Bryn Mawr’s history and it is believed to equal the largest gift ever from an individual woman to a women’s college. Funds will be used for international programming and some capital renovations.
“A longstanding champion of Bryn Mawr, she has always been willing to focus her giving on the College’s greatest needs,” said President Kim Cassidy. PRESS
(Cheers to Sarah Conner-Smith, my Apra colleague who works at Bryn Mawr!)
~~ Love for Loyola: Jennifer Pritzker and her foundation plan to donate $10M to Loyola University Chicago in honour of her mother Audrey Ratner. “My mother and I graduated from Loyola as adult undergraduate students—she was a busy mom, and I was in the military,” Pritzker said in a statement. “We both respect Loyola’s mission to educate students of all backgrounds and ages. We both believe that education is the great equalizer in a democratic society.” NEWS
~~ My, oh my, Ms Zilly! Chair of Connecticut College’s Board of Trustees Pamela D. Zilly ’75 has given a $7 million gift to the College.
Her transformative gift will advance a number of important goals by making resources available for the renovation of the College Center at Crozier-Williams, providing annual support for the College’s highest priorities, and establishing an endowment to support Connecticut College in perpetuity. RELEASE
~~ This family is all in: The School of Music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem has received $1M from the estate of artist and philanthropist Jenny Lillian Semans Koortbojian, daughter of school founders, advocates and benefactors Dr. James H. Semans and Mary D.B.T. Semans, to endow merit-based scholarships.
(Thanks to philanthropy blogger Todd Cohen for pointing this gift out HERE)
~~ One innovative woman: German entrepreneur, businesswoman and philanthropist Susanne Klatten has made a gift of £1.8M to fund an Innovation and Enterprise Centre at the University of Buckingham to grow its entrepreneurship department.
As well as having a highly successful career, BSc Business Studies graduate Susanne is also involved in a huge range of philanthropic work including the establishment of a leading European centre for entrepreneurship in Munich. RELEASE
~~ Warms this woman’s heart: Kathryn Vecellio gave $1M to The Cleveland Clinic to carry out desperately-needed research in women’s cardiology. It’s the place where she underwent two aortic valve replacement surgeries.
Her and her husband Leo’s gift establishes the Kathryn C. and Leo A. Vecellio Women’s Cardiology Research Fund. The Cleveland Clinic holds the largest database tracking gender difference in valve disease. NEWS
~~ Holy Mackerel. The transformational donations to mental health care continue! Roberta “Bertie” Bialek Elliott just donated $105.8 million to Montage Health Foundation, the largest gift ever in Monterey County and one of the most significant philanthropic commitments nationwide over the past decade.
Elliott previously gave a $100 million gift to her alma mater, Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. She and her three daughters established the Berkshire Foundation in 1996 and have supported many organizations and institutions through it. She was an early investor in Berkshire Hathaway, founded by her brother, legendary investor Warren Buffett. PRESS RELEASE
~~ Good Girls! The Girls Scouts of Eastern Missouri received two gifts totaling $3.5 million to be invested in an endowment to support the organization’s Community Troop Program.
Jo Ann Taylor Kindle, president of Enterprise Holdings Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the car rental giant, has made a $2 million gift to the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, the single largest contribution in the organization’s history. NEWS
~~ Do you think bequests are boring? You may feel differently after hearing Lady Lucan‘s story. The Countess cut her children out of her will and left her entire fortune (of an undisclosed amount) to the British charity Shelter. There is plenty of drama in her life’s story. NEWS
~~ Et elle était Canadienne! The University of Prince Edward Island received a $1 million gift from the estate of Ruth MacDonald to establish the Roderick Stirling MacDonald Scholarship Fund (named after her late husband). “Mrs. MacDonald’s considerate act of naming UPEI as a beneficiary of her estate will have a tremendous impact on our students for years to come.” NEWS
~~ What a life story, Ms Sallie! Her $5M gift establishes an endowment for the chief curator position at the Taft Museum of Art, the museum just announced.
The gift from the late philanthropist Sallie Robinson Wadsworth will ensure that self-organized exhibitions that advance scholarship are a priority for the museum. (Ladies: this Smith College alumna served on the museum’s board for 30 years.) MORE
~~ Awesome, Ann! Ann Aikens, a longtime trustee on various Cranbrook Educational Community boards, in Michigan, has made a $2M gift to Cranbrook Schools to establish a program to help its K-12 students deal with mental and emotional distress, issues that are on the rise nationally among students. A life-long learner, Ann earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in 2002. NEWS
~~ So glad for this Getty! Ariadne Getty is set to make a $1M donation to Glaad because the LGBTQ community is close to this philanthropist’s heart. Her gift will help fund the Glaad Media Institute, which works with newsmakers, journalists, and Hollywood to ensure that LGBQT stories told; as well as provide training to LGBTQ individuals and advocates on how to tell their stories; and create an annual report to evaluate the current state of LGBTQ acceptance in America. ARTICLE
~~ Nancy Ann knows education is key: The Nancy Ann Hunt Foundation has given Southern Methodist University a $15M gift to continue support of the prestigious Hunt Leadership Scholars Program. The donation will be split, with $10 million dedicated to an endowment and $5 million funding scholarships over the next several years.
Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt’s overall contributions to the scholars program total $65 million since it launched in 1993. NEWS
~~ Anne is our Ma’am! The Columbus Symphony announced the single largest gift in the organization’s history – an $8 million legacy gift from the estate of Anne Melvin, long-time friend, board member, and passionate champion of the Columbus Symphony.
And there will be more once her estate is fully settled. Nice! NEWS
~~ My, My, Maedell: Her $10M legacy gift to Loyola University in New Orleans will provide scholarship funding to many generations of students. It turns out, Maedell Hoover Braud was a loyal administrative assistant in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. PRESS
~~ Mary’s sure are generous! Mary Vanier, of Manhattan, KS, has given $1M to Kansas State University to create at least 30 matching gift scholarships as part of the K-State Family Scholarship Program. This program is designed to increase scholarship dollars to help the university attract and retain students and to inspire new donors to invest in student success. The Mary L. Vanier K-State Family Scholarship will be used to match at least 30 new gifts for scholarships. NEWS
~~ Proud of Mary: A kindergarten teacher who walked to work even in howling winter weather has left $2.5 million to National Louis University in Chicago, from which she graduated in 1954.
Mary Bullock of Geneva, Illinois, who spent 40 years teaching in School District 45, based in Villa Park, Ill., left the gift to NLU’s National College of Education. The school will use it as an endowed scholarship fund to support scholarships for early childhood educators. Bullock was also a regular donor to the university’s annual fund. PRESS
~~ They’re the inspiration! Tampa Bay area philanthropists Kate Tiedemann and Ellen Cotton have donated $1.5 million to the ongoing expansion of Ruth Eckerd Hall.
The gift will fund a new 250-seat cabaret theater in the lobby where children will perform before main events. The theater, expected to begin construction in January, will be named after its donors.
Tiedemann and Cotton together have donated $11 million to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and $500,000 to Metro Wellness and Community Centers. In 2016 they were named Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Suncoast. MORE
~~ Jayne’s generosity will live on forever as The Wichita Community Foundation accepts the largest gift it’s ever received in its 31-year history. The WCF received the $6.9M estate gift from Jayne Milburn, a prominent Wichitan who was involved in many civic organizations in the city before her death last year.
The money will be dispersed, through the WCF, to four non-profits: the Wichita Art Museum, the Wichita Children’s Home, the Wichita Symphony Society and Botanica. NEWS
~~ One for us in Canada! A planned housing complex for youth, expectant teen mothers, young mothers and babies is $1M closer to reality thanks to a generous gift from the family of Joan Smith, Ontario’s first female solicitor-general. The funds are going to Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), in London, Ontario.
Joan Smith was a long-time advocate for social policy change, who passed away last year at the age of 88. Now, we get to see her name on a building: Joan Smith Building for Youth. (It has a nice ring to it, right?) NEWS
~~ I hope the good folks of Apra-MoKan see this! A $10M gift was just announced to the University of Kansas Hospital from Cheryl Lockton Williams.
The gift will be used for equipment and furnishings for the new Cambridge Tower A building at the hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. The fifth level of the new tower will be named the Jack and Cheryl Lockton Intensive Care Patient Unit in recognition of Cheryl and her former husband, Jack.
At the announcement, an audible gasp went through the group when they heard the $10 million figure. They had anticipated a gift more along the lines of $1 to $2 million. MORE
~~ An enthusiastic *shout out* to the late Jean Hower Taber, the great-granddaughter of a Quaker Oats founder. Her giving to the University of Akron goes back to 1980, totaling nearly $8 million before her latest $20M gift, the largest ever in the history of the school.
“That about two-thirds of the money will go to scholarships for honors students and audiology students (UA helped Taber with a hearing problem) is especially heartening, going to the core of the university mission.” ARTICLE
~~ There are no words, only GIANT accolades for He Qiaonv, Beijing businesswoman, billionairess and now arguably the world’s most generous female donor: she is setting aside half of her fortune ($1.5 billion) for conservation efforts in China. ARTICLE
~~ Aunt Betty, I raise my mug to you. The late Betty Brewer left $2.1M from her estate to the Darke Community Foundation. She always wanted to attend college and she loved cats. It’s a classic case where “our community will benefit from the generosity of one woman for many years to come.” NEWS
~~ Darling Darla! Former Wall Street investment banker Darla Moore is donating $1M toward the construction of the $75 million International African American Museum, in Charleston, adding to a string of gifts to educational and cultural causes in her home state South Carolina. The money was pledged through her foundation. Read more about her philanthropic works HERE.
~~ Super Soccer! At Dartmouth, Stacy Smith Branca ’94, a captain of the 1993 Big Green women’s soccer team, and her family made a $2M gift to endow the women’s soccer head coach position. Stacy said she hopes that the gift will continue to inspire student athletes and help them develop vital life skills. ARTICLE
~~ Late Lady Lynne: The start of the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium construction project broke ground recently on Grand Haven’s waterfront. It’s a $3.2 million redevelopment project that is several years in the making. Known as a community supporter and local philanthropist, Lynne passed away in 2016. A $3M gift from her estate is funding most of the project. ARTICLE
~~ Fiercely fit! The people at Meredith College are about to get healthier thanks to a generous US$1M donation from alumna Ann Lowery to renovate the campus’ fitness center – now named The Lowery Family Fitness Center. (Ann named the center after her parents Herman and Ruth.)
“There is so much excitement and gratitude for this gift,” said Marie Chamblee, dean of education and health and human sciences. NEWS
~~ A Midwestern eye-opener: Jane Hardesty Poole, a Washington University alumna, made a US$10M donation to commemorate her father, the late St. Louis ophthalmologist Dr. John Hardesty. The University will rename the ophthalmology department at its medical school the John F. Hardesty Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. The gift will fund research and patient care. (I’m hopeful that Jane will also continue to be remembered.) ARTICLE
~~ Go, Gail! Former Westpac CEO Gail Kelly has given the Sydney-based University of New South Wales $1M to build education ties between Australia and her native South Africa.
The gift will establish a student exchange program with the University of Cape Town, where Ms Kelly did her arts degree, majoring in history and Latin, and trained as a teacher with a diploma of education. NEWS
~~ I’m speechless, Sandra. Northwell Health, in New York state, announced three significant gifts, totaling $40 million, from life trustee Sandra Atlas Bass, bringing her lifetime giving to Northwell to more than US$93 million. Ms. Bass has supported cardiac care at Northwell Health for more than 25 years. Of her recent gifts, $25 million will be allocated to North Shore University Hospital to support the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital located on the Manhasset campus – a “hospital within a hospital.” PRESS
~~ The late Phyllis Hanse left a US$4.2M estate to a number of charities, administered by the South Dakota Community Foundation. This former piano teacher’s generosity will help children, high school students, a local church and the library in Webster. READ
~~ Former Second Lady of the United States, Tipper Gore has gifted US$1M to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to expand their flagship teen program nationwide. More middle school and high school students will have access to Ending the Silence, designed to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and help young people get the treatment they need. PRESS RELEASE
~~ The woman who gave it all away: the late Joan B Kroc, was arguably the most generous woman philanthropist of our time, if you measure generosity purely by dollar value. She awarded nearly US$3 billion to more than 190 organizations, charities, non-profits, advocacy groups and individuals. Journalist Lisa Napoli has just released a new book about her and her infamous McHusband. BOOK REVIEW
~~ Y,all, the late Jeanette Nassour elegantly left US$4M to various Austin arts, faith and education organizations including her favourite Austin Opera, in June 2017. NEWS
~~ The late Madeleine Rast left US$9M to her beloved National Museum of Women in the Arts (general endowment fund), reported by The Washington Post in June 2017. ARTICLE
~~ Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett made a US$4M gift to the USC Marshall School of Business, in May 2017, as reported by USC News. The gift will fund scholarships for female MBA students who are 30 and older. PRESS RELEASE
~~ While the late Seth W Ryan wasn’t a “diva” in a gendered sense, his US$10M bequest for his alma mater Southeastern Louisiana University deserves an accolade on this list. He made his gift in the name of his late wife Thelma McNamara Nicaud Ryan who couldn’t afford to attend college. The gift, announced in April 2017, will be directed toward female students in specific academic disciplines. ANNOUNCEMENT
~~ Holy, Helen! The Helen Diller Foundation granted US$500M (the number of zeroes is correct!) to UC San Francisco, announced in January 2017. The gift is the single-largest in this public university’s history. It will be directed toward faculty, students and Chancellor’s priorities. Legacy making, right here, Ladies. NEWS
~~ Yay, Yoshi! Her husband Michael Audain is likely better known as a generous philanthropist in Vancouver, but Ms Yoshiko Karasawa made her own $1M transformational gift to Nikkei Place Foundation, ultimately supporting intercultural understanding. She is beautiful on the inside and out. (Thanks to Jill Lambert for pointing me to this phenomenal gift!) PRESS RELEASE
~~ Neda Nobari, a San Francisco State University alumna and Iranian-American philanthropist, gave US$5M to her alma mater to establish the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, in 2016. It’s the first interdisciplinary center of its kind. ANNOUNCEMENT
~~ Miss Lyda Hill, 73, donated US$25M to establish the new Department of Bioinformatics at University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center, in June 2015. Her “exceptional gift” bridges research and clinical care using big data. NEWS RELEASE
~~ Finally, a Canadian woman donor! Elizabeth Wirth gave $7.5M to McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, to enhance student-related programs, in 2015. The New Music Building on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal is named in her honour. (She volunteered and fundraised for McGill over many years first.) NEWS
~~ The late Nadine Bradley Dempster, of Knoxville, left a US$6.16M estate to eight different charities; evenly divided and unrestricted ($770,000) to support organizations in animal welfare, cancer care, children and others. “She was one of those ladies who quietly went through life caring about others.” ARTICLE