Mary Lee (middle) with Romaine (l; senior gift planner) and Lee (r; president & CEO).
(Minneapolis) – It is with gratitude, love and heavy hearts that we share this sad news. Mary Lee Dayton, founder of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, passed away on Wednesday, August 21, 2013. You may find her obituary in the Star Tribune, here: http://bit.ly/1dwhieO.
Throughout her life, Mary Lee was a champion of so many important social causes, including equality for all Minnesota women and girls. As founder of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota in 1983 and multimillion dollar supporter throughout, we are here today, 30 years strong and a vital force for gender equality because of Mary Lee’s passion for social justice and vision she held for the world.
“What I want the world to know about Mary Lee is that she was a pioneer… a catalyst for change,” said Lee Roper-Batker, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation.
“In 1983, Mary Lee made the first $1 million gift ever given to a women’s foundation, anywhere in the world. This was unheard of… extraordinary. She made that gift to launch the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, the very first statewide women’s foundation in the country.”
“When I asked Mary Lee what motivated her then, she said, ‘I feel a responsibility as a privileged person, as a woman of wealth, not just to share my resources with others, but to actively work toward changing the status of women in our society.’ …that was Mary Lee,” said Roper-Batker.
Mary Lee was as generous as she was wise. More than 20 years later, she made a second seven-figure gift to the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota — this time for $2 million. It was the cornerstone gift of our $15 million campaign to double our endowment. When she rallied her friends to join her, four matched her gift at the $1 million-plus level.
“Real social change will certainly not happen overnight,” said Mary Lee. “This is the real significance of an endowment, enabling the Foundation to carry on its work in perpetuity, resulting, I hope, in making a real difference in the lives of women and girls in Minnesota.”
She was right.
“Mary Lee’s was a good life, well lived. I feel honored to have known her. I know her legacy will live on in all of us and all who have benefited from her philanthropy,” said Val Spencer, a Women’s Foundation Trustee.
We could not agree more.
Mary Lee’s family will honor her at a memorial service at Westminster Presbyterian Church on Sept. 7. For more details about the service and to read about Mary Lee’s extraordinary life, please access her obituary in the Star Tribune, here: http://bit.ly/1dwhieO.