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Colorado Springs philanthropist among nation's most generous

February 11, 2014 Updated: February 11, 2014 at 6:29 am
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photo - Photo by Linda Navarro  
Ready for the party evening circa 1887 were Dan and Leslie Carlson, left, Nancy Lewis and Lyda Hill.
Photo by Linda Navarro Ready for the party evening circa 1887 were Dan and Leslie Carlson, left, Nancy Lewis and Lyda Hill.  

Part-time Colorado Springs resident and businesswoman Lyda Hill was ranked among the nation's most generous philanthropists last year, resulting in part from a $2 million gift she made to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Hill, 71, ranked 35th in The Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual list of 50 most generous Americans in 2013, donating $63.2 million. Her gifts included the UCCS donation, a $50 million pledge over five years to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, a $7 million gift to the Nature Conservancy for marine-conservation efforts and $2 million to the Center for BrainHealth in Dallas for Warrior Training Teams that will deliver programs to veterans and active-duty military across the nation.

"Making the world a better place isn't trite to me," Hill said in an email interview. "I am trying to do what Warren Buffett suggested at the first Giving Pledge Gathering - 'Don't do what others can do and will do. Do what others can do and won't do.' I am hopeful that letting my gifts be public will encourage others to give in their own way. There is no minimum for philanthropy and volunteering is also a wonderful way to give."

Hill, who splits her time between Colorado Springs and Dallas, is one of 19 people or couples on the list who have signed the Giving Pledge, started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010. More than 120 of the world's wealthiest individuals and families have pledged to give at least half their wealth to charity since the movement began. She said she had decided before signing the pledge to give away her fortune before her death.

The UCCS grant, part of $4 million she has given the school, will allow the university's Trauma, Health & Hazards Center to open a Veteran Health and Trauma Clinic next month in the new Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences under construction on North Nevada Avenue.

The clinic will provide free or reduced-cost mental health care to veterans who are ineligible to receive assistance from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs due to their discharge status. The grant also will allow UCCS to launch a new veteran health and trauma track to its clinical psychology doctoral degree next year.

Hill gave $1 million in 2010 to a UCCS program to prepare high-tech talent to teach science, engineering and math in K-12 schools and another earlier grant to support the Heller Center for the Arts and Humanities.

Last year, she donated the Garden of the Gods Visitors Center, valued at $2.6 million, to a foundation dedicated to preserving, maintaining and protecting the Garden of the Gods Park. The M.D. Anderson grant is for its Moon Shots Program, in which six teams of researchers focus on reducing deaths from eight types of cancer, an effort that will cost an estimated $3 billion during its first 10 years. Hill is a breast cancer survivor.

The magazine reported Monday that Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were the most generous American philanthropists in 2013, with a donation of 18 million shares of Facebook stock, valued at more than $970 million, to a Silicon Valley nonprofit. Zuckerberg's donation was the largest charitable gift on the public record in 2013.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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