Giving back: the generous legacy of George E. Doty

A giant in Catholic philanthropy has passed away: George Doty, one of Fordham University’s biggest donors and the man who funded the restoration of the great dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

From CNEWA’s blog ONE-TO-ONE:

Over the years, George and his wife Marie, who died in 2008, have given selflessly to many causes near and dear to their hearts. They have been especially good to Catholic concerns for alleviating poverty, strengthening higher education and supporting family life. In addition, George, Marie and their children have selflessly and generously supported CNEWA’s mission with time, energy and financial resources.

Born on 15 February 1918, George earned his bachelor’s degree from New York’s Fordham College in Rose Hill in 1938 and later served as a former chair of Fordham’s Board of Trustees. A former managing partner of Goldman Sachs, he was active in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, serving as lieutenant for the Eastern Lieutenancy from 1991 to 1992.

George Doty played an active role in many agency works, including full support for the rehabilitation and decoration of the Great Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This historic project brought together the church’s three custodians — Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Franciscan, communities that had often been at odds with one another — ending a centuries-old standoff that could have resulted in the collapse of the ancient shrine.

“For decades, visitors to this holiest of Christian shrines … have left disappointed, even repelled. Expecting a shrine that related to their spiritual or aesthetic understanding of the Paschal Mystery — the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — the pilgrims instead entered a dark, cavernous space containing a number of chapels, each used exclusively by one of the Christian communities,” wrote Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore (then CNEWA’s associate secretary general) about the restoration project and its dedication.

“For 68 years, the dome had been concealed from public view. With mouths open, heads tilted back, and audible signs of delight, all looked up to the heavens, to the brilliant light that represents the glory of the Lord.”

Fordham took note of his generosity a few years ago:

Like clockwork, Fordham can count on George E. Doty, the man who has given more consistently than anyone in the University’s history. Every year since 1957, Doty, a former chair of the Board of Trustees and managing partner of Goldman Sachs, has lent his support. His gifts have bolstered several University initiatives, including the Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Psychology, the renovation of the University Church and the Annual Fund.

“I was fascinated by the mind-stretching that occurred as part of my Jesuit education,” said Doty, who worked the night shift at the incinerator on West 56 th Street during the height of the Great Depression to pay for his Fordham tuition. “I later went to Columbia to get a master’s degree, but I never got the same mind-stretching experience that I’d gotten at Fordham.” Doty’s Fordham education enabled him to work for 17 years at the accounting firm of Lybrand, Ross Bros. and Montgomery before joining Goldman as a partner in 1964.

“We recruited people from all the best universities and graduate schools, and I never felt at an intellectual disadvantage to anyone I ran into there,” he said.

Doty said the idea for his gift to help restore the University Church came in part because his wife, the late Marie J. Ward Doty, noticed that the kneelers needed work. Just as he and a cadre of other successful alumni helped Fordham negotiate a period of financial uncertainty in the early 1970s, Doty said he merely did what needed to be done.

“If I did not have the Catholic faith and I wanted to invent a faith for myself, what would I do? I think I would reinvent the Catholic faith. It may sound foolish, but I think of a loving God, a forgiving God. How can you beat that?” he said. “So I guess I’m convinced both on faith and on logic that Fordham is the best place to be.”

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

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