Select a donor:
- Andreas Mitchell Miller
- Mary C. Dwan
- Albert J. Gonska
- Sara M. Young
- DeForest E. Voss
- Henry and Dorothy Engler
- Dorothy Good Anderson
- George "Petie" Wallman
- Blanche Claxton
- Dorothy N. Ribenack
- Jeno and Lois Paulucci
- Kathie Blomstrand
- Jean Whiting
- Mary M. Dwan
Andreas Mitchell Miller was the visionary and sole financial contributor to the original Miller Memorial Hospital, now Essentia Health Duluth (formerly Miller-Dwan Medical Center). He was born in Denmark, and immigrated to America at the age of 20 in search of new wealth. After struggling for a few years working on railroads in Wisconsin and Wyoming, he purchased timberlands in Minnesota and then built a saw mill in the Duluth area. His lumber manufacturing was quite successful, and he turned his focus to mining interests where he further prospered.
A. M. Miller was also an important figure in the development and economic health of Duluth, using his financial expertise and civic responsibility to guide the community from its money troubles. This lead to his position as mayor in 1877.
During the years that followed, Miller saw many Duluthians suffer and die from waves of typhoid fever epidemics. Despite Lake Superior's endless supply of fresh water, the municipal intake pipes were improperly placed and contaminated by raw sewage, therefore making people deathly sick. Through his financial backing, the city was able to take over the waterworks, build deeper intake pipes and a pump house nine miles distant from the center of the population. Contemporary accounts estimate that in establishing an uncontaminated water supply, Miller saved the citizens $800,000 and many lives.
Andreas Miller retired from active business interests in Minnesota and relocated to New York City, where he built and owned the controlling interest in the Savoy Hotel, but his concern for the city never waned.
That was proven on January 5, 1917, when he instructed the United States Trust Company of New York to change the terms of a trust that he had created. The trust—containing $600,000 of municipal bonds—said that the income would go to Miller during his lifetime and to several charities when he died. Miller told the trustee to delete the charities, and gave the Trust Company a piece of paper instructing it to replace the charities with the following language:
"... upon his death to transfer and pay over said securities in property to the City of Duluth, Minnesota, for the establishment of a free and public hospital and dispensary, in a cheerful and convenient location within the city for secular use and benefit of worthy sick and helpless poor, without distinction of sex, color, creed, or nationality who are not afflicted with any loathsome or contagious disease..."
At his death, he not only left the bequest for the municipal hospital and dispensary, but he left substantial sums to various private institutions and to the city for playground facilities.
Miller Memorial Hospital went through many years of judicial, legislative and governmental red tape, but on April 27, 1931 the first Board of Directors of Trusts was announced. "The appointments were made [by district judges] under provision of an act by the recent state legislature, passed after recommendations were made in a survey of the hospital project." They selected six Duluthians to preside over the administration of hospital funds and other municipal bequests. Those new Board Members were:
- Mrs. Arthur P. Barnes and William B. Getchell, to serve for two years
- William E. EcEwen and John R. McGiffert, to serve for four years
- Oscar Mitchell and William J. Olcott, to serve for six years
A. M. Miller Memorial Hospital opened on May 13, 1934, almost 17 years after the death of its donor.
Mary C. Dwan was born in Faribault, Minnesota, where her grandfather had been a pioneer. The daughter of a widow, she worked her way through the University of Minnesota, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees. Upon graduation, she taught school briefly, then went to Washington, D.C. during World War I to do medical social work with hospitalized soldiers.
As a result of this work, she won a scholarship to the University of Indiana to seek a doctorate of philosophy. She left school before attaining that degree to be married.
She and her husband, John C. Dwan, met when both were students at the University of Minnesota. He was practicing law in Duluth when they were married.
Only days after her marriage, she went to work in Duluth for Associated Charities, and, when that organization was dissolved, she helped organize the Bureau of Catholic Charities.
Mrs. Dwan later shifted her interests to support of the parochial schools, which her two children attended, and during World War II she helped consolidate and reorganize the Duluth Council of Catholic Women.
She also held the Papal Medal of Honor from Pope Paul VI for her services to the Duluth Catholic community, as well as the Albert Pillsbury Fellowship from the Minnesota Foundation, through which she channeled funds to help UMD and the University of Minnesota.
Mary C. Dwan was an exceedingly generous philanthropist, and in addition to a lifetime of giving, donated $2.4 million in 1968 to help with an expansion project at Miller Memorial Hospital. Upon its completion in 1971, the facility was renamed Miller-Dwan Hospital and Medical Center in honor of her gift.
Dwan's desire to give would become her legacy, and in turn, the legacy of the Foundation. After her death in 1973, a gift in the form of a charitable lead trust offered more than $2.7 million for the establishment of an endowment to benefit the hospital and related community healthcare activities. This gift formed the beginning of the Miller-Dwan Foundation.
Albert Gonska was no shipping magnate or lumber baron. In other words, he was no ordinary donor. He was quite the contrary, in fact—a simple man in faded clothes who enjoyed watching the children patients at Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center. He was quiet and frugal, and he didn't stand out in a crowd.
He surprised everyone, however, in 1991 with a gift in his will of $425,000 to benefit childrens' programs at Polinsky.
A retired St. Louis County social worker, Gonska lived to the age of 94, and those who knew him said he lived an unusually frugal life. He was born in Duluth and grew up above his father's saloon. Times were tough at the turn of the century, and many saloon patrons couldn't afford to pay Gonska's father in cash. Instead, they paid in scrip—stock certificates in a little-known firm, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co., now known as 3M.
He amassed his fortune in this way, but continued to work for the County for 30 years, retiring in 1961. He and his wife Hilda had no children of their own, but shared an obvious love for others'. This love was generously shared in Gonska's bequest, and his gift ensured the future of Polinsky's pediatric programs.
1896 - 1965
Friends described Dorothy Ribenack as a kind, quiet woman who was content to stay at home. We would call her a visionary. She was born in Duluth, the daughter of a prominent former state senator, Edward R. Ribenack, who served as state representative and senator of the old 58th District in Duluth for 30 years. She graduated from Duluth Central High School and attended New York Library College. At one point, Ms. Ribenack worked at the Duluth Public Library at a salary of $45 per month. She worked as a librarian in Cleveland, Ohio and Portland, Oregon but eventually returned to Duluth to care for her ill mother.
Ms. Ribenack was a member of the Duluth's Women's Club and the First Methodist Church. She kept a summer cottage on Fond du Lac. In January 1965, she drew up her last will and testament when it was discovered that she had advanced cancer. Ms. Ribenack died on June 2nd, 1965 at age 69 and, remarkably, left an estate worth more than $2,000,000.
In her will, Ms. Ribenack made gifts to three cousins (her only close survivors) and to the Methodist church she had attended. The remaining monies were divided among five charities, one of which was the Polinsky Rehabilitation Center. In her will, she stated that the interest of the trust should be used by these organizations "for the charitable purposes for which each is formed." The gift was officially accepted by the Rehabilitation Center's Board of Directors on December 6, 1966.
Exactly why Ms. Ribenack chose Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center as one of her causes is not entirely known. However, her younger brother had tuberculosis and attended high school on crutches. He died a few years following graduation. It may be that watching his struggles made her sensitive to other people who were challenged with mobility issues. Regardless of the reason, the people of Duluth and surrounding communities continue to receive the benefit of Ms. Ribenack's compassion and vision.
For more than 20 years, Sara Young worked for this community, making sure its physically challenged residents were provided with the finest services possible. Much of her efforts fell within the scope of the Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center, where she served more than 15 years on the Board of Directors.
She was an active board member, and she served as president, but her greatest work was as a fund-raiser. Her personal dedication to the goals of the Center, coupled with an uncanny ability to influence others to support this great cause, resulted in the raising of thousands of dollars for the construction of Polinsky's facilities.
Young's efforts were not limited to programs for the handicapped in Duluth, however. For several years, she served on the statewide Board of Directors of the Minnesota Society for Crippled Children & Adults, through which she was able to support one of her favorite projects, Camp Courage.
In 1976, the Polinsky Board recognized Young's accomplishments by naming the Polinsky library in her honor and by creating the Sara M. Young Education Fund, which provides monies to improve and maintain the library as well as support other educational opportunities within the Center. Before her death, Young made a sizeable contribution to this education fund, and at her request, contributions made to Polinsky in her honor are to be added to further support these educational efforts.
A native of the Chicago area, DeForest Voss and his wife, Florence, moved to Duluth in the final years of his career in the dairy business. They spent 12 years in Duluth, and during this time, Florence was treated in Miller-Dwan's dialysis unit. Although the Vosses returned to Illinois upon retirement, they never forgot the excellent care Florence received at Miller-Dwan. After Florence's death in 1986, DeForest continued to contribute to Foundation programs, providing support for the dialysis program and development of the Spiritual Center. And he did more than that. DeForest made a gift in his will to the Miller-Dwan Foundation for research in kidney disease and dialysis. Upon his death in 1999, the Foundation received a generous gift to improve the health of our community's people through important research.
Born in Neuchatel, Switzerland around the turn of the century, Henry Engler immigrated to Duluth in 1924. He worked at St. Mary's Hospital first as a medical technologist, then as a physical therapist until he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. At the end of World War II, he returned to Duluth to continue working at St. Mary's until September 1968. In all, he devoted 44 years of service to St. Mary's Hospital.
But Henry wasn't finished. He spent another eight years as a physical therapist at Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center. He believed strongly in the regenerative power of the human body and said, "When I see a patient, I don't see a sore shoulder; I see a well one." When he retired from Polinsky in January 1977, Mayor Robert Beaudin declared a "Henry H. Engler Day" in honor of his many years of dedicated service. Henry died in 1989.
Henry's wife, Dorothy, was born and raised in Duluth. She worked as a saleswoman in several department stores and was known around town as "The Hat Lady" because she owned more than 150 hats. Dorothy wanted to continue Henry's great legacy to rehab patients, so she provided a gift through her will. When she died in 2002, she left $150,000 to Polinsky. Together, this wonderful couple impacted the lives of patients during their lifetimes and beyond.
Born August 15, 1907 in Winton, Minnesota, Dorothy Good moved to Duluth in 1921. She attended Duluth Central High School and graduated from St. Mary's Hall in Faribault and from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She began working at Pantour, Inc. travel agency in 1947 and eventually bought the agency in 1951. She was one of Duluth's early successful businesswomen. Dorothy was active in the Duluth community as a member of the Duluth Business and Professional Women's Club, the American Association of University Women, and charter member of the Altrusa Club.
In 1971, Dorothy married Arvid A. Anderson. After his death in 1977, Dorothy moved away from Duluth for a time, but returned in 1988.
When the time came for Dorothy to make plans for her assets after her death, she remembered the wonderful care that her husband had received as a patient at Polinsky Medical Rehabilitation Center. She decided to leave a third of her estate to the Van Gorden Fund of the Miller-Dwan Foundation in recognition of that excellent care and as a tribute to her husband, A. A. Anderson.
Dorothy died in January 2003, but her legacy lives on through her generous gift of over $300,000 to the Van Gorden Fund of the Miller-Dwan Foundation. Because of her generosity, the lives of countless people will be improved through grants to Polinsky and other community nonprofits providing rehabilitation services. We are proud that her spirit will live on in our community through the work of the Foundation.
1916 – 2003
George Wallman and his wife Ellen lived in Proctor for the better part of 80 years. George was a timekeeper for the DM&IR. He loved to fish, he loved his dogs and he had a special place in his heart for children. He funded the Proctor High School Band and the Salvation Army, among other organizations, and in 2003, the foundation realized a generous gift to the Miller-Dwan Burn Fund.
1908 - 2005
Blanche Claxton believed that helping others put life in perspective. As a committed volunteer, Blanche saw the hardships suffered by the elderly and the disabled. As a result, her aches and pains, she said, didn't seem quite so bad.
A deeply spiritual woman, Blanche began giving to the Foundation's Spirit Center Fund in 1986. In her later years, she named the Miller-Dwan Foundation in her will, leaving $69,492 to help sustain the mission of the Foundation.
It's hard to imagine that two people can accomplish so much for so many. For more than 40 years, Lois and Jeno Paulucci have funded projects and programs to help the poor, elderly and disadvantaged. Thanks to their humanitarianism and philanthropy, northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin have experienced access to scores of valued resources and countless opportunities.
The Miller-Dwan Foundation's Solvay Hospice House is just one of the projects that has benefited from the Paulucci's generosity, A $600,000 leadership gift from Republic Bank, together with Jeno and Lois Paulucci, offered the early momentum that helped make Solvay Hospice House, a place that provides families with an opportunity to work through the worst of times in the best possible way.
A few years ago, Kathie Blomstrand visited a lawyer and drew up a will. In it, she named the Miller-Dwan Foundation as a beneficiary.
Certainly the idea of drawing up a will is nothing new. Nor is a bequest to the Miller-Dwan Foundation. But Kathie is doing something a bit different. She's an employee who is bequeathing part of her estate to her workplace.
"I'm not a wealthy person, but I believe in giving to worthy causes, and I believe in what our Foundation is doing," she says in the midst of a hectic day, adding, "I appreciate the way that employees here have input on how Foundation funds are used. There is a policy of very public accounting, and we all appreciate that."
A native of Duluth, Kathie joined the Essentia Health Duluth (formerly Miller-Dwan Medical Center) staff in January 1973 as a nurse on the night shift of the new critical care unit. Through the years, she acquired her bachelor's and master's of nursing degrees, and she progressed to night supervisor, head nurse in intensive care, and day supervisor. In 1984, she was appointed director of the medical/surgical unit and nursing administration.
A casual conversation with Miller-Dwan Foundation president, Pat Burns, planted the idea of making a bequest to the Foundation. "Pat mentioned that a couple affiliated with the Medical Center had left an endowment to the Foundation, and I remember thinking what a nice idea that was," Kathie says. "I stored the idea in the back of my mind, and when the time came to make a will, I decided that I knew a place where endowment money could do some good."
She feels strongly about the need for good patient and family education programs and hopes that one day her gift might have an impact in that area. "These education programs are a vital part of what every nurse does, and this is one of those areas where there is a much greater need for funds than third-party payers can provide," Kathie says. "If we want to provide all the components for quality care, we must rely on gifts from other sources."
Often, people assume it takes a millionaire to make a major bequest to a Foundation, but that's not true. She explains, "You don't have to have a fortune in order to give a gift that will make an impact. If many people like me give, together we'll be giving a fortune and making a difference."
Jean Whiting was an early catalyst for creating the region’s first residential hospice house. The touch she extended continues to reverberate. Last year, as a Solvay Hospice House patient, Jean experienced the tranquil setting she helped make possible through her visionary philanthropy.
“It was perfect beauty. Solvay is a place that offers not only dignity for the dying, but a grace-filled passage,” says her daughter, Sue Ragan.
Despite a stroke that challenged her ability to speak or eat, Jean shared songs, celebrations and other moments made for smiles. Like the simple pleasure of one last luxurious hot bath. Or the chance to cradle her infant grandson Jimmy for the first time.
“My faith was so full because of Solvay,” Sue says. “There’s no tension, no one telling you to leave the room. There’s a serenity that I haven’t felt any place else—a profound respect for the patient, for the family, for the spirit of those who have died.”
Sue appreciated seeing tranquility in her mother’s eyes—a stark contrast to memories of her grandmother dying in a hospital—that came from peaceful surroundings and a lack of medical intervention. It’s one reason she and her husband, Charles, honored Jean by helping establish the Solvay Hospice House Endowment Fund in her memory. Their donation makes it possible for so many other families to find the dignity of dying in peace.
“We wanted to honor and perpetuate my mother’s vision. Not only so that the building would be taken care of through the endowment fund, but so that patients who aren’t as fortunate would have the gift of being able to die in such a graceful way as she did,” Sue says. “When death comes naturally, let it go beautifully. You have to make that available to people.”
Author Francis H. Cook, in his book The Jewel Net of Indra, describes a vast net that reaches infinitely in all directions. In that net are an infinite number of glittering jewels. Each individual jewel reflects all of the other jewels, and the reflected jewels also reflect all of the other jewels. Mary M. Dwan is one of those jewels.
Mary is a reflection of generosity and serenity passed down from one generation to the next - a compassion that embraces her children, grandchildren and the children of our region.
Mary’s intense love of her family, her faith and her community has provided the means for Miller-Dwan Foundation and Essentia Health Duluth (formerly Miller-Dwan Medical Center) to create regional medical care that goes far beyond the usual standard of care. Mary’s generosity has supported the historical specialty areas of Essentia Health, making them the top-performing health care departments in the region. With her help, the Miller-Dwan Foundation was able to remodel the Dwan Burn Center, create the Miller-Dwan Spiritual Center, build Solvay Hospice House and Amberwing - Center for Youth & Family Well-Being and support a myriad of organizations that do the magnificent work of caring for the people of our region. Mary was the first to stand up in support of Amberwing, providing a leadership gift that encouraged others to join together to transform children’s mental health care.
Mary is indeed a great role model and teacher for all of us who want to know selflessness, conviction and the passion for possibility.