Lila May Walkden Flounders: Cutting Edge Philanthropy

Lila May Walkden Flounders has always been a woman ahead of her time.

After graduating college in 1946, Mrs. Flounders moved to Washington, D.C., to study international relations at a visionary new school established to prepare young people for responsibilities of the post-war world, now the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She was a member of a class that she recalls had just six other women and went on to work in the male-dominated field at think tanks in Philadelphia and Cleveland, even hosting her own radio talk show on foreign policy.

Now she has merged her passions for education and women’s rights with another forward-thinking fascination: medical innovation.

Almost 50 years after her graduation, Mrs. Flounders reconnected with Johns Hopkins at an event in Florida and was moved by the work of university researchers making advances in biomedical engineering. She was fascinated by stem cell technology and inspired by potential for advances in breast cancer, allergies, and mental illness—all afflictions that have affected her family. In that, Mrs. Flounders saw an opportunity to support important research and help young men and women pursue their dreams.

In addition to annual gifts and a bequest, Mrs. Flounders has chosen to fulfill her philanthropic wishes for SAIS and the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering by creating charitable gift annuities. Over the years, she has funded almost a dozen of them. Those benefiting the Whiting School will establish the Lila May Walkden Flounders and Joseph Walkden Flounders Biomedical Engineering Endowment in honor of her son, a money-market broker who was killed at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The endowment will support fellowships for biomedical engineering students pursuing graduate degrees. Her preference is that one of the fellowships is awarded to a woman. “This is one way I can help and leave a legacy for myself and my son,” says Mrs. Flounders, who herself received a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins. “What I hope for—what he would have hoped for, too—is that we can uncover the research that will be the building blocks to provide the best medical care for the entire world.”

Johns Hopkins can be one of the engines behind realizing that hope, Mrs. Flounders believes. Widely regarded as the world’s best program of its kind, the Department of Biomedical Engineering is home to researchers who are leaders in their respective fields, ranging from theoretical modeling of cell machinery to the fabrication and implantation of new tissues in human joints. When Mrs. Flounders met Jennifer H. Elisseeff, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the Whiting School who holds a joint appointment in orthopedic surgery at the School of Medicine, the two quickly connected over shared passions. Over the years, Dr. Elisseeff has met with Mrs. Flounders to share progress on her work developing new biomaterials and stem cells to regenerate tissue, specifically to try to create a new form of cartilage replacement.

“Lila May is not just a philanthropist. She engages and shows true interest in what I am doing and clearly would like to see our research continue and move forward,” says Dr. Elisseeff. “Her energy is boundless and contagious.”

For this early feminist and champion of education, making a planned gift to Johns Hopkins has given her the chance to be inspired again and again.

“In a changing world, in order to keep up,” Mrs. Flounders says, “you have to think about what will make a difference.”

Gift vehicles used: Charitable gift annuity, Bequest and annual gifts

‘ Back