Unveiling an anonymous donor
The Dalhousie Difference series
Melanie Jollymore - February 1, 2012
Thanks to the generosity and foresight of a Nova Scotia woman, vision research at Dalhousie Medical School, Capital Health and the IWK Health Centre looks forward to a bright future.
Through gifts amounting to an astonishing $9 million, the late Mrs. Margaret (Peggy) St. George of Halifax has provided the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences with perpetual funding to pursue new treatments and cures for blinding diseases.
“You can’t overstate the impact of gifts of this magnitude,” says Dr. Alan Cruess, head of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, noting that the funds are held in endowments so that Mrs. St. George’s gifts will generate financial support forever.
“This assurance of long-term funding is crucial. It allows us to attract and retain brilliant people and provide them with the stable environment they need to be creative and productive. Only then can they make important discoveries.”
Two generous gifts during her lifetime
Mrs. St. George gave two large anonymous gifts to the department while she was living. In 1999, she provided cornerstone funding of $1 million that allowed the university to leverage additional funds to establish an endowed chair in vision research. A few years later, she gave $2 million for vision care and research to the QEII Foundation’s Working Miracles campaign—also anonymously.
“Peggy was an intensely private person. She wanted to make a difference but she didn’t want any recognition,” recalls Dr. Raymond LeBlanc, who was head of the department before taking on his current role as Capital Health’s vice-president of learning, research and innovation in 2006. “She made it clear that we could only reveal her identity after her death.”
Making a lasting impact
There was more than Mrs. St. George’s identity to reveal after her death. In her will, she bequeathed an additional $6 million to ophthalmology at Dalhousie, in memory of her stepparents, Dr. R. Evatt and Mrs. Rita Mathers of Halifax. As Dr. LeBlanc recounts the story, Dr. Mathers had been an eye-ear-nose-throat specialist (EENT) who, before his death, expressed a wish to support ophthalmology research. Funds he had earmarked were later passed on to Peggy, who carefully fostered that bequest into a transformational gift.
“Peggy was an astute and well-read person who showed a keen interest in our department over the years,” says Dr. LeBlanc. “She wanted to do something that would make a lasting impact on research and scholarship in the field. There’s no question she has accomplished her goal.”
This article is part of the Dalhousie Difference series, exploring what the power of philantrophy means to the university and introducing and showcasing some of the 50 innovative projects in development. Learn more at boldambitions.dal.ca.
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