Donations at the Diva Level

These women made million-dollar+ gifts to organizations of their endearment, in recent memory. This is my little way of celebrating their philanthropy, by sharing with you, dear readers, the positive emotional responses their gifts continue to elicit from me.

Care to comment? Tell me about a woman at your organization who has quietly gone about giving her time, talent and treasure with little fanfare. I would love to add her generosity to this list.

For most of history, Anonymous was a woman. — Virginia Woolf

*last updated October 17, 2017


~~ 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


~~ 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



What if Women Ruled the World, 2016; By Yael Bartana; Viewed at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, DC, on July 4, 2017

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