In memoriam: philanthropist to Washington College Betty Brown Casey ’47 dies at 95

By Belle Leiphart

Elm Staff Writer

On Wednesday, Aug. 17, Betty Brown Casey ’47 passed away in her home at the age of 95. An alumna and philanthropist, Casey’s passing is a loss to the Washington College community. Casey leaves behind a significant mark on the country as well as WC.

According to an article published on the College website, Casey was born in 1927 in Carroll County, Md. She later went on to attend WC on a scholarship, majoring in biology with a minor in psychology. She worked for Rosewood State Training School, an institution working with individuals with mental disabilities, for eight years as a psychiatric social worker. As she was earning her master’s degree in psychiatric social work at Catholic University, she met her future husband, the late Eugene B. Casey, a developer and investor.

Betty and Eugene Casey married in 1955 and were married for 31 years. She began her philanthropy career by taking a large role working for the Eugene B. Casey Foundation. When Eugene passed in 1986, Casey inherited half of his $200 million estate and continued funding causes she was passionate about, according to the article.

She honored her late husband and his philanthropy by donating to create an inpatient acute care facility in Rockville, Md. and a diabetes information center in Bethesda, Md. in her husband’s name.

Throughout her lifetime, Casey donated $100 million to support what is now known as Casey Trees, a nonprofit organization that plants and maintains trees in the Washington D.C. area.  This group reports to have planted over 41,000 trees in the city.

Casey was also an avid fan of the arts, especially music. She served on the board of the Washington National Opera and donated approximately $18 million to the company. It later merged with the Kennedy Center in 2010 and continues to live on. She also pushed for greater diversity in the company’s productions.

Joe Holt, Executive Director of Institutional Giving and Stewardship for Washington College met Casey in 1991.

“When I joined the College in 1991 in the President’s Office, that role involved staffing the Board of Visitors and Governors,” Holt said. “Mrs. Casey was a member of the Board.  Several years later, she became a Board member emeritus.”

Casey never forgot the college she attended, and supported WC throughout her life. She made multiple donations to her alma mater, representing more than 10 percent of the college’s total received endowments. Her gifts created the Annie B. Coleman Scholarship, the Raggedy Ann & Andy™ Scholarship, the Clark Clifford Scholarship, and the Christmas Scholarship, all worth over $10 million.

Casey gave more than endowment funding to WC. She also created the Casey Academic Center as well as the Casey Swim Center, both named in honor of her late husband.

The Rose O’Neill Literary House was also a gift from Casey in 1985, named after her mother-in-law, Rose O’Neill Casey. She also donated guest housing such as Brown Cottage and surrounding properties.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Sarah Feyerherm, the College dedicates one day of the year as a day of service on campus called “Casey Day,” as well as bestows the “Casey Medal” on a graduating female student of the College that, according to Dr. Feyerherm, is “outstanding in the qualities of scholarship, character, leadership, and campus citizenship.”

“Mrs. Casey’s greatest gift to WC was the example of her service and support,” Holt said regarding Casey’s philanthropy. “She was grateful for the opportunity WC had afforded her as a student, and her service and donations of buildings, scholarship and faculty chair endowments, and prizes were her way of repaying the College.”

Though Betty Casey has passed, her legacy will live on through her dedication and countless donations that have had a resounding impact and helped so many people. She not only left her mark on WC, but on countless other individuals and institutions.

“Life afforded Mrs. Casey great means, and she did great works with the means available to her,” Holt said.

Elm Archive Photo

Photo Caption: The Eugene B. Casey Academic Center was funded and named by Casey after her late husband.

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