Couple Gives $25M To Children's Hospital

Diana and Stephen Goldberg's gift of $25 million to Children's Hospital is their second such donation.
Diana and Stephen Goldberg's gift of $25 million to Children's Hospital is their second such donation. (Courtesy Of Children's Hospital)
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By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Washington couple has made a generous donation to advance pediatric health care in the region, giving $25 million to fund diabetes and obesity research and a host of other initiatives at Children's National Medical Center, the hospital announced yesterday.

Seven years after giving $25 million to the hospital in Northwest Washington, longtime supporters Diana and Stephen Goldberg donated another $25 million. Taken together, the gifts are the largest in the history of Children's Hospital, and hospital executives said they are among the biggest donations ever to an American pediatric hospital.

The Goldbergs' new gift comes as Children's Hospital raised an additional $30 million in smaller donations to help kick off the hospital's $500 million campaign. Much of the Goldbergs' donation will fund the recruitment of elite doctors to research treatments for such childhood illnesses as leukemia, diabetes and obesity.

"It's such a huge problem in our city, and if we can be a catalyst to bring people together to address this issue of obesity, I want to be there at the forefront," Diana Goldberg said in a telephone interview.

The Goldbergs are longtime District residents. Stephen Goldberg runs a real estate development firm that has built many suburban office parks and apartment buildings around the city. Diana Goldberg, a volunteer at Children's since 1983, has served on numerous boards at the hospital and at other health-care organizations.

The couple decided to devote much of their philanthropy to medical research after their adult son's leukemia was diagnosed several years ago.

"I had the healthiest kids in the world, and all of a sudden, at age 37, my son was diagnosed with leukemia and went from a healthy young man to close to death," Diana Goldberg said. "But he has survived and is thriving."

She spoke from Providence, R.I., where she was visiting her son, who is a college professor there.

Peter Holbrook, the hospital's chief medical officer, said the Goldbergs' donation is historic.

"The Goldbergs, with this gift, are now the single largest donor we've ever had," Holbrook said. "They are among the largest benefactors in the nation for kids."

Besides funding research, the Goldberg gift will go toward every major division of the hospital. The gift also will help Children's expand its endowment, which is valued at $50 million, far less than the $1 billion-plus endowments at pediatric hospitals in some other major cities.

"The Goldberg money is important for us to continue to have that national and international vision," Holbrook said. "We are aggressively trying to unlock the secrets of children's diseases and how we can treat them in a more effective way."

Pam King Sams, the hospital's vice president of development, said increasing the endowment is necessary to recruit top doctors and their staffs to conduct research here.

"The most significant thing about this gift is it will allow us to recruit and retain the best and brightest physicians so they can have the time to detect diseases and cure them," she said.

Funding such research can help boost Children's Hospital in the world of pediatric medicine, Diana Goldberg said.

"I really feel that the hospital is at a moment in time where I felt that this gift would really make a tremendous difference," she said.

The hospital sees about 500,000 patients each year, but if its doctors find cures to diseases, that work can impact millions of children worldwide, Holbrook said.

"There's no reason why these lessons can't be applied in Cairo, Egypt, or Nairobi, Kenya," Holbrook said. "Discoveries that we make and lessons that we learn can literally affect the entire world's children, including children that we never get to see."

In 2001, the Goldbergs joined philanthropists Joseph E. Robert Jr. and Jill Robert in donating to Children's Hospital. Both couples gave $25 million, which were then the largest gifts ever made to the hospital.

Joseph Robert, who runs a Northern Virginia-based commercial real estate and mortgage investment firm, was also inspired to give by personal experience. His teenage son underwent complicated orthopedic surgery at Children's.

"I spent a week sleeping on the floor and living at the hospital in my son's room," Robert said. After his donation, the surgical wing was renovated and named after Robert.

Robert said the Goldbergs' gift is "an extraordinary gesture."

"I only wish there were 10 more Dianas and Stephens out there who would match this gift."

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