Friday, October 15, 2010

The Mass General Donor Wall

Honoring 200 years of philanthropic support for the hospital

Mass General Donor Wall

The donor wall will be located at the entrance to the hospital in the main lobby.

Philanthropy was the impetus that established Massachusetts General Hospital, and today it continues to be one of the building blocks of the hospital and its powerful patient care, research and educational enterprise.

In 1797, a prominent Bostonian named William Phillips bequeathed $5,000 to what was then the “Town of Boston” for a hospital. The timing was right: in 1810, two physicians distributed a “circular letter” to the wealthy residents of Boston describing the need for a hospital that would serve the poor and destitute — those who could not afford medical care at home as the middle- and upper-classes could. The General Hospital Corporation was formed on the basis of this letter.

Mr. Phillips’ son, who carried the same name and later served as Lieutenant Governor, increased his father’s gift to $20,000 out of his own pocket. But he had one stipulation: that the money would be handed over to the trustees of the corporation only once they raised an additional $100,000. Thus the original Phillips gift, the hospital’s first, was also its first bequest. The younger Mr. Phillips turned it into the hospital’s first challenge grant.

Soon enough, more than $100,000 had been raised, enough to construct a first building, the Bulfinch Building, and William Phillips became the hospital’s first president. Mass General’s planned giving membership society is named in his honor, as was the Phillips House, a patient care unit originally constructed in 1917 and housed today in the Ellison Building.

In 2011, in celebration of Mass General’s bicentennial anniversary, the hospital will be taking a new step to remember and celebrate its dedicated donor community. It will erect a donor wall to acknowledge those benefactors, starting with the Honorable Mr. Phillips, who helped transform MGH over the past two centuries into the great institution it is today. It will serve as a permanent tribute to the donors who have supported the hospital in its first 200 years.

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