A dedication to pediatric research: The man behind the largest charitable gift in Seattle Children’s history

Jack Rupert MacDonald
Jack Rupert MacDonald

UPDATE: In honor of Jack MacDonald’s $75.04 million legacy gift to Seattle Children’s Research Institute, we will name the Research Institute’s Building 1 in his honor. Effective Jan. 31, the new name of Building 1, which is located in downtown Seattle, will be the Jack R. MacDonald Building. Signage on the building reflecting the new name will be up by the end of this month.

Today, Seattle Children’s announced it has received the single largest charitable gift in its 106-year history, and also the largest known gift to a U.S. children’s hospital for pediatric research. The landmark bequest, a $187.6 million charitable trust from the estate of Jack Rupert MacDonald, was given to Seattle Children’s, the University of Washington (UW) School of Law and The Salvation Army – organizations that held great meaning for Jack.

Each year, the three organizations will receive income earned by the trust. Children’s will receive 40 percent of the yearly income, which in the first year will equate to approximately $3.75 million. MacDonald’s pledge to Children’s was first announced in 2011 as being anonymous.

At Children’s, MacDonald’s legacy will be used to fund pediatric research taking place at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. Jack decided to support research when he learned it was an important priority for the hospital and will support the organization’s quest to find better treatments and cures for childhood disease worldwide.

“Jack’s gift is an inspiration to all of us. It is one of the largest ever to a children’s hospital. And it is the largest single gift in support of pediatric research,” said Doug Picha, President of Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation and a friend to Jack for many years. “It is transformational not only in what it will do to help us find more cures and better treatments, but also by forcing each of us personally to reflect on the legacy we would like to leave.”

So, you may ask, who was Jack MacDonald? Who was the man behind this incredible gift that will impact so many lives for generations to come?

Lorraine del Prado, a longtime friend of Jack’s and the Senior Director of Development Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation, remembers him fondly.

“Jack was a very kind man. One thing that was very special about him was the constant smile on his face,” said del Prado. “Perhaps it reflected how content he was in his life, with the simplicity of his needs, and how much he enjoyed being a caretaker of his family’s assets that would later be used to bring good to the world by helping those in need.”

A compassionate man dedicated to family and philanthropy

Jack's mother Katherine MacDonald
Jack’s mother Katherine MacDonald

Jack was known for his compassion, modesty and gentle presence. He supported hundreds of causes with small donations, but was proudest of the trust he was stewarding for the benefit of Seattle Children’s, the UW School of Law and The Salvation Army – organizations he chose carefully because of what they meant to him and his family.

Jack was devoted to the memory of his parents and honored them through his trust. Jack’s bequest to Children’s recognizes his mother’s deep respect and commitment to the hospital, and his gift to The Salvation Army was made on behalf of his father’s wishes to help men and women in need. His donation to the UW School of Law honors his own education, which enabled him to lead a comfortable life and continue to contribute substantially to his family trust.

Jack was born May 5, 1915, in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. He moved to Seattle, Wash., with his family when he was 3 years old. He joined the Merchant Marine in the 1930s and served in the South Pacific for a few years during World War II. A 1940 graduate of the UW School of Law, he worked for 30 years as an attorney for the Veterans Administration in Seattle. His father, Frederick William MacDonald, was a successful businessman and owner of MacDonald Meat Company. His mother, Katherine Sarah MacDonald, was a kind woman who loved Seattle Children’s and was a long-time member of the hospital’s Connie Beal Howe Guild. Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit is also named in her honor.

In 1971, Jack married Mary Katherine Moore, a vivacious, adventurous and outgoing widow who also worked for the Veterans Administration. Mary Katherine had two children from a first marriage. Mary brought a lot of joy to Jack’s life. The couple traveled extensively, each year choosing a new place in the world to explore. They also shared a love of gardening, exercise and reading. They lived in Magnolia and in 1997, Jack and Mary moved to Horizon House where Mary passed away in 1999. Jack, who was committed to staying healthy and walked one to two miles every day, passed away in September 2013 at the age of 98.

Nurturing a secret fortune

Jack with wife Mary at the Cape of Good Hope in 1984
Jack with wife Mary at the Cape of Good Hope in 1984

Jack was also quirky, private and frugal and he kept his fortune a secret for more than 40 years. Only his family and close friends at Children’s knew of his wealth and they were amazed by his generous spirit and how he nurtured his inheritance in order to do the most good with his fortune.

Jack delighted in knowing that he was viewed as an “eccentric” at Horizon House. He purposely wore sweaters with holes in the elbows, never wanting people to know about the wealth of his family’s trust.

Jack had inherited a nest egg from his parents that he invested with great care for more than 60 years. He considered himself a steward of these funds, which he intended to benefit charitable organizations. Proper investment of these funds became a lifetime passion and preoccupation. He was obsessed with the stock market and could quote key stock prices as they changed day-to-day. He loved reading the Wall Street Journal, learning about the operations of conservatively managed companies, tracking their stock prices and attending shareholders’ meetings when possible.

He was also financially conservative and astute until his dying day. He never splurged on himself and used and preserved household items that originally belonged to his parents and late wife.

Believe it or not, Jack was also a coupon clipper and a bargain hunter. During the time he lived in Magnolia, he regularly took the bus downtown, taking advantage of his senior bus pass. He sought out coupons for food and household goods, and often would visit multiple stores in one day to take advantage of savings. One time, he bought so many cans of frozen orange juice on sale that he had to buy a new stand-alone freezer.

And he did this all with one goal in mind – to someday benefit charitable organizations for generations to come.

A friend Seattle Children’s will never forget

A longtime friend of Children’s, Jack was a regular attendee at Children’s Guardians’ Circle Luncheon and the Horizon House Holiday Luncheon. Jack often wrote notes to Children’s expressing how pleased he was with the advances in pediatric care and research he learned about during these events. He also expressed how much he sympathized with the families that were struggling economically and whose children were seen at the hospital.

During his lifetime, Jack gifted $536,000 to Children’s supporting research, uncompensated care and greatest needs. In 2011, he gave Children’s permission to publicize his anonymous $50 million estate pledge to research (which has since grown to $75.04 million) during the 30th anniversary of the Hospital’s Foundation. He was happy that his bequest could help make an impact in improving the lives of sick children around the world.

“He has left an amazing legacy that will positively impact the lives of countless people for generations to come,” said del Prado. “Jack’s wish was to be remembered as a philanthropist and as a steward of his family’s trust, and he has accomplished that goal.”

If you’d like to arrange an interview with a member of Seattle Children’s regarding Jack’s gift, please contact Children’s PR team at 206-987-4500 or at [email protected]