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Dorrance H. Hamilton Bio

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Dorrance H. Hamilton

With the naming of the new building, Dorrance ‘Dodo’ H. Hamilton leaves a lasting mark on Jefferson.

Mrs. Samuel M.V. Hamilton began her relationship with Jefferson in an unlikely way. A pregnant Hamilton was asked by Mrs. Tristrain C. Colket, who was on the Women’s Board’s maternity committee, to have her baby at Jefferson and report back to the committee. Thus began a nearly 40-year relationship with Jefferson.

Over the years, Hamilton has had numerous opportunities to assess Jefferson’s performance. Her husband’s family, the Vauclains, also had a Jefferson connection. Family legend has it that Mr. Vauclain paid Dr. Martin E. Rehfuss when the family was healthy, when they got sick, the payments stopped – Rehfuss was doing his job. At least, that is how the story goes.

‘The reputation Jefferson has for caring about their patients is true. When Sam wasn’t well, we were told everything that was going to happen and what to expect. It was all done so gently, so lovingly – it was wonderful. People there cared about you.’ She explains at her home in Newport, RI, overlooking the Atlantic ocean.

Hamilton served as president of the Women’s Board from 1969 - 1972. In this position, she oversaw nine committees, the expansion of Pennywise Thrift Shop, and fundraising for the heliport on Foerderer Pavilion. She was the first woman named to the board of trustees. When other boards were inviting ‘token women’ to join their boards, ‘I was asked to join the board with a vote. None of the other hospitals that asked the president of their Women’s Board to join gave them a vote.’

Her most recent gift of $25 million established the Dorrance H. Hamilton Building, dedicated to creating an environment for team teaching. This gift demonstrates her concern about education. As a trustee, Hamilton understood the vision set forth in the new strategic plan. ‘It seems so apparent that there were ways of doing things that were better or easier. Jefferson seemed to be going along the right path.’

Hamilton is concerned about philanthropic education as well. She believes that it is important to instill the spirit of volunteerism at a young age, with both her children and now her grandchildren. Her own children stuffed envelopes on their vacations and sorted clothes at Pennywise.

Widely known for horticultural pursuits, Hamilton looks forward to the opening of the adjoining Sidney and Ethal Lubert Plaza as well. ‘The fact that the building and plaza are going to be open to the community is brilliant.’ Hamilton enthuses. She remembers Jefferson Alumni Hall changing the face of the neighborhood. ‘I guess that was the first expansion on the community, and this one should too.’