Not an education post today, sort of

Justin Wm. Moyer of the Washington Post revealed last evening that Childrens National Health System next year will open a pediatric health research facility on the site of the old Walter Reed Hospital. The 12-acre Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus will include an outpatient clinic.

The $190 million center is being build with a gift of $30 million from the
United Arab Emirates. Mr. Moyer added that “the UAE gift was announced the same day Children’s National said it would partner with Johnson & Johnson to build a 32,000-square-foot facility on the new campus called JLabs @ Washington, DC. In a collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, JLabs will focus on medical responses to chemical, biological and nuclear threats, as well as infectious diseases. “

The grant from the UAE comes almost exactly a decade after Joseph E. Robert, Jr. engineered a $150 million contribution from the same nation. Mr. Robert is not mentioned in yesterday’s Post article, which is exactly how he would have wanted it. The Washington, D.C. businessman and philanthropist, who passed away from brain cancer at the end of 2011, much preferred operating behind the scenes. The New York Times covered his achievement in 2009 that led to the formation of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at the hospital’s current site:

“The institute’s goals were hatched in the home of Joseph E. Robert Jr., who made a fortune selling the real estate held by failed savings and loans in the early 1990s.

Mr. Robert’s son had undergone more than nine hours of surgery at Children’s National several years before that. His son has since become a Marine, and Mr. Robert donated $25 million to the hospital for a surgical center. A few years after that, he was sitting around his dining room table with some hospital executives, discussing how to make surgery less frightening and painful for its patients and their parents.

Last fall, armed with the business plan that came out of that initial discussion, Mr. Robert visited Abu Dhabi. He had become friendly with the ruling family and with the crown prince, Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

‘We were eating dinner off of TV trays, in front of a bank of televisions, watching the news, and I just started talking about the evolution of the plan and how important a concept I thought it was, and he was immediately interested,’ Mr. Robert said.”

Mr. Robert was also instrumental in support of Washington D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, the plan that provides private school vouchers for children living in poverty in the nation’s capital. Just recently, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that she would like to double the size of the OSP from $45 million to $90 million. In trying to figure out how to get this program passed by Congress in 2004, Mr. Robert promoted the three-sector approach that gives equal funding to vouchers, DCPS, and charter schools. Mayor Bowser has stated that she supports the OSP because of the money it provides to the traditional schools and charters, as well as the additional choices it gives to parents regarding the education of their children.

When he was alive Mr. Robert was a fierce advocate for those less fortunate then himself, and he enlisted many from the fields of politics, entertainment, business, and healthcare to give of themselves and their pocketbooks to join his endeavors.  He founded Fight for Children which has raised over $300 million for young people in the Washington, D.C. area. He is credited with bringing in over a billion dollars for children and education.

As we have seen in the news in the last week, his legacy continues.

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