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Vanquishing Banquo's Ghost

Banquo's Ghost

As a student (and a fan) of Jefferson’s history, I’m fascinated by the formative years of the College. Ours was a completely different approach to establishing a medical school—an exercise in vision, inventiveness, untiring industry and unwavering optimism. Our resourceful founder, Dr. George McClellan, and his determined colleagues were running the 19th-century version of a start-up.

The odds were stacked against them. They scrambled to find faculty. There were lawsuits, deft maneuvers and legislative machinations. An in-town competitor was angling to squash the upstart competitor. There were money issues too. Jefferson needed more than gumption. What especially intrigues me is the effort to raise capital.

As a new institution, Jefferson had no endowment, no alumni, no grateful patients, no base of support. In his 1939 book of Jefferson historical figures, alumnus Tom Bentley Throckmorton, MD 1909, wrote: “Youth and ambition cannot succeed without financial backing. Hence in 1827 the momentous question of how to acquire financial aid, like Banquo’s ghost, arose to haunt and plague the faculty.”

Smart philanthropy saved the day.

In nonprofit parlance, a legacy or “planned” gift is simply one that is more creative than an outright contribution of cash. A bequest or a gift of real estate, appreciated securities, a charitable gift annuity: these are a few examples of legacy gifts. Just such a gift, an opportunity creatively seized and generously turned, saved the young Jefferson Medical College.

One of Jefferson’s first trustees, the Rev. Dr. Ezra Styles Ely, made what is, even by today’s standards, an out-of-the-box gift. He offered to buy a lot on 10th and Sansom streets and finance construction of a new home for the College. In exchange, Ely would receive token rent of $1,000 a year for five years. He would eventually turn over to the College even the rent he collected. Throckmorton called the gift a “beam of light from the morning star.”

Over the years, legacy gifts have had a big impact on Jefferson, in one case literally “titanic.” Charlotte Drake Martinez Cardeza, who survived the sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic, bequeathed her family fortune of $5.5 million to Jefferson to establish the Cardeza Foundation for blood research. In 1929, grateful patient Samuel Parsons Scott, Esq., in “acknowledgement of the inestimable service rendered by one of the Professors,” bequeathed about $3 million to establish what is now Scott Memorial Library. More recently, a $10 million bequest from the estate of Robert D. Rector, MD ’48, and his wife, Dorothy, enabled the creation of the Clinical Skills and Simulation Center.

Legacy gifts are all about celebrating your success story by passing it on to benefit others through healing, research and teaching, which are Jefferson’s success story. That story reaches all the way back to Dr. McClellan’s dream and Dr. Ely’s gift that kept it alive to see another day. Your achievements and good fortune don’t have to remain in the past. They can be a beam of light from the morning star that shines tomorrow and tomorrow and far into the future.

Jefferson would not be what it is today without the legacy giving that vanquishes Banquo’s ghost. Making a legacy gift is easier than you think and always rewarding and meaningful. So, what is it you want to accomplish for an infinity of tomorrows? Who do you want to help? I encourage you to reach out to me and find out how we can do it together.

Elizabeth A. Dale, EdD, MPA
Executive Vice President and
Chief Advancement Officer
Office of Institutional Advancement