Philanthropist Nancy de Laski Dies

Posted: July 2, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: July 1, 2009 at 2:31 pm

By Corey Jenkins Schaut

Donald and Nancy de Laski

Donald and Nancy de Laski

Nancy de Laski, a generous, longtime friend of George Mason University, died at home on June 19 after an 18-month struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.”

“Nancy’s bright smile and spirit always made my day,” said President Alan Merten. “She was committed to enjoying the day and to helping all of us do the same.”

Along with her husband, Don, Nancy de Laski was an avid supporter of local arts and culture. She fell in love with ballet as a child and enjoyed painting as well as playing the hammered dulcimer.

In addition to serving on the Arts at Mason advisory board for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, she was a member of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra board. She also served on the boards at Arena Stage, George Washington’s Mount Vernon and CharityWorks.

Professionally, de Laski was a realtor and broker.

Through the de Laski Family Foundation, the couple’s philanthropy supported a number of Washington, D.C.-area health, arts and education organizations.

In recent years, the couple’s gifts to Mason totaled more than $14 million. Their gifts helped to establish the Potomac Arts Academy and launch the expansion of the Performing Arts Building on the Fairfax Campus, among other things. The groundbreaking for the addition was held on July 1.

The couple also shared a passion for the study of consciousness and transformation, and the de Laskis committed $10 million last year to found the Center for Consciousness and Transformation in Mason’s New Century College.

At the time, Nancy described the center’s formation as the “dream of a lifetime.”

“The younger generation needs more inspiration and understanding in their everyday lives,” she said. “We hope that by studying consciousness, students will attain more purpose-driven lives and thereby affect the world’s future in many fields — creative, medicine, government, research and peace.”

For their generosity and public service to Mason, the couple was honored with George Mason Medals at the May 16, 2009, Commencement ceremony.

De Laski is survived by her husband, three children and six grandchildren.

A service celebrating her life took place on June 24.

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