Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Tribute to Thomas J. White, Co-Founder of Partners in Health

Yesterday, Thomas J. White, a co-founder of the amazing organization, Partners in Health, and a very successful businessman in Boston in the construction industry, whose childhood was very painful, died at age 90.

Today's Boston Globe has a very moving tribute about this great man, entitled: "Rich beyond counting with compassion for the poor."

According to the article:

He lived his life with but a single regret.

“I’m sorry I don’t have more money to give away,’’ he told the Globe in 2004.

What he handed out had a ripple effect beyond the immediate lives he saved, said Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the president of Dartmouth College who was at the inception of Partners in Health with Mr. White, Dr. Paul Farmer, Ophelia Dahl, and Todd McCormack.

(Dr. Kim has an undergrad degree from my alma mater, Brown University, and an MD and PhD from Harvard.)

“After a while, we tried to limit his trips to Haiti, because it pained him so much,’’ Kim said. “No matter where he was, every morning he would wake up and start his day thinking about the suffering of the poor. I have never, ever seen a person like that before, where the reality of the pain of others was with him all the time.’’

He even delivered personally to a homeless woman in Harvard Square a red wagon a day after she told him that a red wagon was what she really needed to cart her belongings around.

As we approach the one year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010, it is time to reflect. Dr. Kim's mother called Mr. Thomas J. White, a living saint.

I leave you with some words of wisdom from this exemplary philanthropist, businessman, and human being, courtesy of Partners in Health:

I think it’s important for us to live in an inclusive world. Excluding people for this reason or that is, in most cases, grossly unfair. I also think that the myth of the self-made man is exactly that, a myth. All of us are born under many conditions over which we had no control or no vote, i.e. where and when we were born, whether we were male or female, the color of our skin, our ethnicity, and our religion.