Mystery gift, largest in Dominican’s history explained… at last

Nov 14, 2012 No Comments by

San Rafael CA — On Wednesday November 14 Dominican University of California President Mary Marcy acknowledged the largest single gift in the history of the institution to joyous audience applause. The gift of $8 million-plus was made by Rolf Lewis and family for the purposes of renovating the Meadowlands Hall into a state of the art home for Dominican’s Health Sciences program. The announcement broke nearly a week of tight suspense as emails whirled around campus explaining the gift of historic proportions, but withholding  the names of the donors and the amount.

Flanked by deans and special guests seated on stage at Angelico Concert Hall President Marcy graciously began by providing background and context for the gift.

She observed our human challenge to “learn from the past so that together we shape the future.” She noted that Meadowlands Hall was a previous gift made to the university in 1918 when the De Young family sold the mansion for $10.

(Photo/L. Stampfli) Meadowlands Hall, the summer cottage of the De Young family of San Francisco, was given to Dominican University in 1918 with a payment of $10. Meadowlands will now be completely renovated with funds from the Rolf Lewis family’s historic gift of $8 million.

In expressing thanks for the Lewis donation of $8 million-plus, President Marcy noted that we have “earned the trust of the family” and “with such gifts comes great responsibility.”  The donation will come in several parts.  Initially provided will be $2 million to start the Meadowlands’ renovation while the Dominican community will raise another $2.5 million that will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Lewis Family.

President Marcy enjoined the assembly to embrace the philanthropic challenge to uphold our part in fundraising in response to this “elegant and profound act of generosity.“  Marcy explained “the gift will help provide a better future for thousands.”

The Lewis family fled Nazi Germany during the Second World War, finding their way to Shanghai and then to the San Francisco Bay Area. As Marcy explained, coming with virtually no possessions, the family grew and prospered in various business ventures including San Francisco landmark restaurant Rolf’s Since 1960. With this background she introduced Rolf Lewis and his wife Valerie Hetherington.

Lewis took the podium quoting NY Yankees catcher Yogi Bera saying ”What goes around comes around.” Lewis humbly acknowledged his gratitude for the many successes and gifts he’d received in life and was thankful to have found Dominican. He expressed excitement in looking forward to seeing the Meadowlands project take shape. To a standing ovation Rolf welcomed his wife to join him on stage explaining that, “She is not just a strong woman, but the strongest woman.”

The event concluded appropriately with statements from occupational therapy alumni Gina Stires, MSOT class of 2012 and nursing program senior Micol Reyes, who will graduate in December. Speaking as beneficiaries of Dominican’s nursing, and health and sciences programs, both testified to the high quality and value of their education at Dominican and thanked both the donors and university officials. County Health official Dr. Larry Meredith, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services, explained the certainty of this donation creating more good through its multiplier effect on the community, the state and the world.


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