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Catherine "Deeda" Blair, HD ’14: A Plan to Support the Future of Medicine

Posted on October 7, 2021
Catherine "Deeda" Blair HD '14

“No one else compares with her,” said James D. Watson, the molecular biologist, geneticist and Nobel laureate, commenting on the medical philanthropist Catherine “Deeda” Blair, HD ’14. “She has great style and a great commitment to medical research.”

A longstanding advocate for biomedical research and advancing global public health, Blair has been a generous benefactor of multiple institutions in medical and public health education and research, the arts and design. At Drexel University, she has bestowed gifts including an important collection of political and history books for the College of Arts and Sciences and University Libraries, as well as couture apparel for the Fox Historic Costume Collection at the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. At the College of Medicine, Blair supports the Dean’s Priority Fund, which focuses on multiple key initiatives including scholarships, faculty development and research.

“I first visited Drexel when Caroline Milbank, a costume historian, arranged a visit to the design school for me to see the historic apparel collection that they were building,” says Blair. “When John Fry arrived as president, we had a wonderful discussion about the biotech companies and the excellent science being done in Philadelphia. I have appreciated how he and his wife, Cara, have stayed in touch. Over the years, I have been dazzled by the extraordinary vision and enthusiasm for Drexel that John has expressed, and I am profoundly impressed with what the University has been accomplishing.”

Blair’s gift to the College of Medicine is in the form of a charitable gift annuity, a philanthropic vehicle that also produces income for donors. After a charitable gift annuity is established by a benefactor, Drexel manages the donated cash, securities or other assets and distributes a fixed payment for life to one or two beneficiaries. Donors receive an immediate tax deduction for a portion of the gift and a portion of the annuity payment is tax-free. The balance remaining when the contract ends passes to the University.

“My investment advisor suggested a charitable gift annuity as an excellent way to produce income for donors,” says Blair. “I found that it was easy to establish and has multiple benefits, including providing immediate and ongoing support for important work at the College of Medicine. Plus, during one’s lifetime, the distributions are helpful.”

Having lived in Asia and Europe with her husband, the late Ambassador William McCormick Blair, Jr., she has developed a deep interest in global approaches to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. Blair has served on boards for the Harvard AIDS Institute, the Scripps Research Institute (a nonprofit biomedical research organization), the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, which administers the prestigious Lasker Awards for achievements in medical research. 

“I believe that supporting medical research is a productive and humane investment,” adds Blair. “If you are in a position to help, I certainly would encourage you to do so.”

In 2014, at a convocation that granted degrees to more than 400 new physicians and scientists, the College of Medicine awarded Blair an honorary doctor of science degree.

“It is a privilege for me to support discovery and innovation at Drexel’s College of Medicine,” says Blair. “To current and future medical students and researchers, I want to express my gratitude and best wishes for the important work they are doing.”

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