The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) and the Foundation for Teaching Economics (FTE) lost a good friend and leader when Whitney Ball passed away on Sunday, Aug. 16, at the age of 52. Whitney had battled cancer for a number of years, but she never let it slow down her determination to make a difference in the world. She built DonorsTrust, the donor-advised fund she led, into one of the most effective such institutions in the country.
Ironically perhaps, word of Whitney’s passing came to me while I was in an all-day mediation session seeking to resolve a dispute involving a donor’s estate. I couldn’t help but wish this donor had met Whitney Ball and heard her make the case for DonorsTrust. It would have saved a few headaches and thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Whitney understood the importance of donor intent. As Capital Research Center President Terry Scanlon observed in his tribute to Whitney, “Under her guidance, DonorsTrust battled not only for liberty, but also for an even more rarely defended cause: Donor intent. Countless conservatives have lamented the way fortunes that were built by liberty-loving entrepreneurs have ended up in the hands of those who despise the free-market system which made the wealth they now control possible. But before Whitney, almost no one did anything enduring to change this situation.”
TFAS was pleased to recognize Whitney’s accomplishments in July when we presented her with our annual David R. Jones Award for Leadership in Philanthropy. This is a special award for TFAS, as it is named in honor of our founder and long-time president David Jones, who had a passion for the independent sector and whose life was also cut short by cancer at the age of 60. The award recognizes an individual who promotes the American traditions of philanthropy, free enterprise and individual responsibility.
Sadly, Whitney’s health did not permit her to attend the ceremony, but many people were on hand to celebrate Whitney’s accomplishments and passion for liberty and philanthropy. During the presentation, I noted Whitney’s profound and deep commitment to the values that have made the independent sector in the U.S. the model for the rest of the world, her steadfast commitment to personal integrity, her humility and her heartfelt compassion for those in need. She was devoted to the alleviation of society’s most pressing needs.
Whitney’s colleague Peter Lipsett, marketing director at DonorsTrust, accepted the Jones Award on her behalf, noting that “Whitney always sought to leave things and people better than they are.” He added, “She is one of too few people who has truly internalized the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats…that the more we work together in cooperation, the more we can actually accomplish.”
Whitney advised TFAS when we formed a strategic partnership with FTE in 2012, particularly as it related to presenting the combination to the donor community. She was enthusiastic about bringing the organizations together. We were pleased when she agreed to serve on the newly constituted board of FTE, especially since she rarely accepted board memberships. I have had the pleasure of serving on the board of the DonorsTrust affiliate, Donor’s Capital.
Whitney was a principled, intelligent and dedicated professional who made significant contributions to advancing the values of individual liberty. She was one of those people who always took her work and her values very seriously, but never took herself too seriously. We all need people like that in our professional and personal lives. When her cancer returned several years ago following a 10 year absence, I had much hope that she would live long enough for a cure to be discovered. But it was not to be. But she was brave in the face of impending death. She was a fighter. And she had a strong faith to help her face the inevitable.
She will really be missed.