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In Fund Raising, an Oasis

TRÉS SHEIKH: From left, Ronald Peterson, Edward Miller and William Brody presenting a rendering of the cardiovascular and critical-care tower to Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi on April 30.

In a palace in Abu Dhabi, a coterie from Johns Hopkins was ushered into a huge room with high ceilings, sumptuous draperies and Persian carpets covering the floor where about 150 government ministers and members of the royal family were assembled.

It was a scene so extraordinary, it might have been an illusion—or a mirage: the Arabs, in their white cotton, long-sleeved dishdashas and flowing head covers, and the buttoned-down Hopkins contingent in their blue suits, there to receive the magnificent gift that would name the new cardiovascular and critical-care tower for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the king who formed the United Arab Emirates in 1971 and ruled it until his death in 2004.

The April 30 Abu Dhabi visit lasted only 17 hours, but the journey to that city on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf actually began in November 2005, when a Hopkins physician scribbled the name of his UAE patient on the back of a business card and handed it to Susan Sutton, just in case she wanted to follow up.

She did. Sutton, director of institutional giving at the Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine, knew that Hopkins doctors had been treating UAE patients, including members of the royal family, since at least 1988 and that Hopkins, through its global services division, enjoyed a burgeoning business relationship with the UAE.

She did some research, devised a gift strategy and put together a solicitation team. The solicitation was complicated, fraught with politics and “push back,” Sutton says, but the gift it led to—its amount has not been disclosed—is likely among the most significant Hopkins has received. 

“This was purely a gift to honor a great man, a gift with no political agenda and no strings attached,” says Steven Rum, head of development for Hopkins Medicine.

The UAE is a federation of seven emirates. Its president, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the late king’s son, is also ruler of Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest emirate, with 90 percent of the country’s oil production. Last year, on’s list of “Fortunes of Kings, Queens and Dictators,” he was ranked No. 3 with a fortune estimated at $19 billion.

Health System President Ronald Peterson likens the UAE to the “Switzerland of the Middle East” because it is open, is tolerant of all religions, and maintains good relations with its neighbors and the United States.

“It’s a smaller world now,” Peterson told a group of Hopkins Hospital managers. “For over a decade we’ve extended care to the royal family and others from the UAE. This is their way of giving back.”

Anne Bennett Swingle



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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