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In Memory of our Good and Caring Friend, Marie E. Wilkinson

–In memory of her husband

Marie E. Wilkinson, Herbert Wilkinson

Marie E. Wilkinson, a generous donor to the Illinois Eye Fund since 1988 when she made her initial gift in memory of her late husband, Herbert Wilkinson, passed away in June, 2011.  She was 100 years old.  Herbert passed away in June 1988.

Marie and Herbert Wilkinson were partners in life in every way including their philanthropy.  Herbert was a long time executive with Abbott Laboratories where he began his career in 1930.   He was president and director of Abbot Laboratories.  He retired in 1971 and then served as president of the Board of the Clara Abbott Foundation and as vice president of the Abbott Laboratories Fund.

Marie and Herbert met in Cincinnati and moved to Chicago when he joined Abbott.  They settled in Lake Forest in 1957 and had three children, Carol Keenan of Chicago, Janet W. (Thomas M.) Leopold of Winnetka, and the late Herbert S. Wilkinson, Jr.   Marie also leaves two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. 
Herbert Wilkinson’s association with the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences started in the late 1980’s as a patient.  His philanthropy started soon afterwards, and he became deeply committed to the Department and its research and patient care programs.  Upon his death, Marie continued Herbert’s devotion to the Department for another 20 years through continued philanthropy supporting a variety of research programs and equipment purchases.

Marie Wilkinson trained as a nurse as a young woman and did part of her medical training in Appalachia.  She was passionate about helping others and making a difference.  As an avid gardener, she loved to see things grow and develop.  Her desire to help others was demonstrated also by her volunteer activities with several organizations including her church, the First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest and the Boarder Babies program in Chicago.

According to Patricia Wager, former executive director of development at the University of Illinois Medical Center who worked with Mrs. Wilkinson since the late 1980’s, “Helping people was a central part of Mrs. Wilkinson’s life.  She demonstrated this wonderful quality through her contributions to the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences to support eye research for 25 years in memory of her husband.  These gifts were instrumental in helping the researchers develop new treatments and cures for eye disease and blindness.

The positive impact of Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson’s generosity is felt by patients now and in the future who will benefit from this research.  Their legacy of helping lives on.”

Among the research programs that received support from Mrs. Wilkinson’s generous donations to the Illinois Eye Fund are the Photoreceptor Research Laboratory directed by David Pepperberg, Ph.D., the Ocular Virology Research Laboratory directed by Deepak Shukla, Ph.D., and the Retinal Circulation and Metabolism Laboratory directed by Norman Blair, M.D.  Most recently, research funding has been provided to one of the Department’s young clinician scientists. Soledad Cortina, M.D.  Dr. Cortina’s research focuses on the study of corneal nerves and possible treatments that will speed corneal nerve recovery.  In addition, Marie’s gifts made possible the acquisition of a state of the art instrument to rapidly measure the concentration of proteins and other biomolecules in a variety of basic science experiments.  The ForteBio’s new Octet RED96 system will foster new vision science discoveries.

“These are just a few examples of the important vision research activity that has been greatly aided by Marie Wilkinson’s generosity,” stated Dr. Dimitri Azar, Dean of the College of Medicine, B.A. Field Endowed Chair of Ophthalmologic Research and Professor and former Head, of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.  “Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson understood that research in vision and ophthalmology would improve the quality of care and quality of life for everyone suffering from vision loss or blindness, today and for generations to come.  We are deeply indebted to them.”