With backgrounds in engineering, operations and information sciences, Elliott and Lynn Green approach their philanthropy in the same deliberate, purposeful way they approached their work and careers. It is an outlook that resonated deeply with them as they came to know Seattle’s Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.
The Greens met in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lynn, with a master’s degree in information sciences, worked for several years as a librarian in the nuclear energy field. Elliott, an MIT graduate in engineering with two additional degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, spent his career as a business consultant for Silicon Valley’s semiconductor industry, helping companies examine and optimize their organizational operations. After retirement, the pair relocated to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to family.
In 2012, Elliott underwent surgery in the Virginia Mason system. In the time following his surgical experience, he was introduced to Virginia Mason’s Patient Family Partner Program, wherein the patient’s perspective is incorporated as an influential voice in the overall health care process. The program is an essential piece in driving the Virginia Mason Production System (VMPS), combining basic tenets of the Toyota Production System, and elements from the philosophies of Kaizen and Lean to improve patient safety and quality of care, decrease costs and facilitate efficiencies for care providers. Elliott was deeply impressed with the programs. As he learned more about VMPS and the Virginia Mason Institute, the organizational model resonated with his own experiences.
Throughout their lives, Elliott and Lynn had strong models for purposeful philanthropy within their family. Now retired and able to appreciate that they had the means to support organizations that were important to them, they were deliberate and thoughtful in those they selected. They chose to be actively involved in the organizations they supported, and they looked for opportunities to follow their passions while making a meaningful impact. Ultimately, they selected Virginia Mason but took their time over several years to learn more before selecting a specific program or department.
With the help of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Foundation staff members, they ultimately selected the Benaroya Research Institute (BRI) at Virginia Mason, a program of particular interest to Elliott.
As a world-renowned, non-profit research institute BRI aims to advance science that will predict, prevent, reverse and cure diseases of the immune system. With a $78 million budget and 325 scientists and staff, the institute is one of only a few research institutes in the world devoted to finding causes and cures for autoimmune disease and immune-related diseases, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as allergies, asthma and COVID-19. To date the institute counts more than 110 diseases that have been impacted by their work.
Through multiple “Inside Immunology” events at BRI (formerly “Science Fridays”) Elliott learned more about the institute’s mission, its team, labs, programs and results. Recently the couple had the opportunity to learn even more, meeting with Dr. Jane Buckner, BRI’s President. Dr. Buckner shared that of the institute’s overall budget, a small portion is allocated to what Elliott describes as “venture capital-style” funding of truly innovative new methodology and approaches. With funding of this type, researchers are currently using an unprecedented tool called organoids to take samples from individuals with inflammatory bowel disease to recreate a tiny “gut” (including bacteria, fluid and tissue) in a petri dish. This allows the researchers to study and manipulate the new environment, share expertise and, ideally, accelerate progress.
Inspired by programs like the organoids, Elliott and Lynn have become generous annual donors to the institute and have helped to establish the Innovation Fund through the Virginia Mason Franciscan Health Foundation. The fund seeks to support new and emerging scientists who have not yet established the reputation necessary to receive substantive government grant funding but whose area of expertise positions them well for future success and potential leadership within the institute. The fund plays an important part not only in attracting new talent but ensuring a balanced succession planning for the future leadership.
Planning for the future of BRI is important to the Greens. After taking time to learn more about the institute, its programs and the meaningful impact individual donors can have on its work, Elliott and Lynn have recently declared their intention to include a generous gift in their estate to support its future.
“It feels to us that the impact will be very meaningful and that our gift will be put to immediate use in allowing either necessary staffing, equipment or materials,” says Lynn. “That’s a legacy that we are extraordinarily proud of.”
Elliott and Lynn share that they have chosen to make their gift intention public now, after several years, in hopes of inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.