$35.6 million to UM
he Diabetes Research Institute Foundation and the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center jointly announced their receipt of a $35.6 million gift from the estate of the late Eugenia Dodson of Coral Gables. The gift, to be split between the two leading research centers on a two-thirds, one-third basis respectively, was specifically designated by the donor to be used for cure-focused research in the two diseases that had affected her and her brothers.
Eugenia “Gene” Dodson lived a humble life. Born in 1904 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she grew up in rural Silver Creek, Minnesota. At 20 she moved to Miami and got her first job working at the beauty shop at Burdines.
In 1943 she married the love of her life, Joseph Enloe Dodson, whom she met on a train to Washington D.C. He was a civil engineer and the chief operating partner in the Oolite Rock Company. He died in 1949, leaving her a modest legacy and his partnership interest in the Oolite Rock Company. Once the company had mined all of the oolite from its land holdings, it sold its depleted quarry land parcels to real estate developers. Dodson invested her share of the land sale proceeds with great care and attention, buying primarily blue chip stocks. She nurtured, reinvested, and grew her fortune over the next 50 years.
“Gene was a very bright and big-hearted woman,” says Donald Kubit, who served as her lawyer for the last two years of her life. “When I met her she was in her late 90s, but she was sharp as a tack. She read all of her proxy statements, questioned her investment advisors, and kept on top of her investments, all the while living frugally and denying herself the trappings of wealth.”
She was very close to her two brothers, who suffered terribly from diabetes and died of complications of the disease. Their deaths had a big impact on her life. In 1979, 30 years after she was widowed, she developed lung cancer and had to have a lobe of one of her lungs removed. This is when she began to consider donating the fortune she was amassing toward finding cures for both diabetes and cancer.
The enormity of the gift provides each organization with unprecedented opportunities to expand current research activities, explore promising scientific areas, develop new treatments, and greatly accelerate progress toward a cure for two of the most prevalent and devastating diseases in this country. More than 21 million Americans suffer from diabetes, and half of all men and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.
Dodson died on December 2, 2005, just 24 days short of her 101st birthday. Little did anyone suspect such a quiet, modest, and unassuming woman would create such an extraordinary legacy.