Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 11
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
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Couple Pledges $25 Million to Hospital

Matthew Hersh

A Pennsylvania couple this week pledged $25 million for the completion of a Plainsboro-based replacement facility for the University Medical Center at Princeton, just months before Princeton HealthCare System entered the public phase of its capital campaign.

The gift is being touted as possibly the largest donation ever given to a New Jersey hospital.

The former West Windsor residents, David and Patricia Atkinson, plan to make the gift part of a matching gift program that would encourage other donations to the new hospital as the public fund-raising phase sets in, according to a statement released Monday by the Princeton HealthCare System, the hospital’s corporate parent. A $5 million portion of the gift will be used as a one-to-one match for gifts from physicians and hospital staff, while the remainder of the donation will used as a one-to-two match for gifts toward the construction of the new hospital, resulting in what hospital officials are hoping will manifest itself in $40 million in additional construction funding.

Groundbreaking is set for this summer on the former FMC Corp. site in Plainsboro near Plainsboro Road along Route 1 North. Construction of the 269-room, $441 million state-of-the-art hospital is expected to take roughly three years. The hospital will be built on about 50 acres of the 158-acre site acquired by the Princeton HealthCare System.

The Atkinsons said the hospital had played a crucial role in their lives.

“Few hospitals have this opportunity and most are faced by necessity to resort to making modifications as best they can to old facilities,” Mr. Atkinson said, adding that the new UMCP campus “should result in the Princeton area having one of the very best, if not the best, regional hospitals in the United States.”

Ms. Atkinson, a former member of the Princeton Hospital Auxiliary, served as the organization’s membership chair for 10 years and as its treasurer for two years.

The hospital’s personal role played a factor as well, Mr. Atkinson said. “Both of my parents received treatment in the hospital’s intensive care unit,” he said, adding that he had “major surgery” at the hospital in the past. It was also noted that two of the Atkinson’s five grandchildren were born there.

An ebullient PHCS President and CEO Barry Rabner said in an interview Tuesday that the Atkinson gift could help to realize “all these great ideas.

“We’re trying to execute this at a time when things are very challenging -financially for health care in New Jersey. So you have these great ideas, and then there’s the reality of what is financially feasible.

“When someone gives you a gift of this magnitude, it really gives you the ability to fulfill the dreams that the whole organization has had for this replacement hospital,” Mr. Rabner said, predicting that the Atkinson gift’s matching stipulation would lead to additional donations: “People have been very generous so far, and we’re confident that that generosity will continue.”

In the Atkinsons, Mr. Rabner said, “we’ve got people who have expressed tremendous confidence in our ability to deliver on a promise that they found very compelling.”

Originally from Allentown, N.J., David Atkinson retired in 1992 as a general partner with Miller, Anderson, and Sherrerd, a Philadelphia-based money management firm and still maintains an office in the Princeton area. A former vice president at Morgan Stanley, where he started an emerging growth stock service and published a weekly commentary on liquidity trends and their impact on equity prices, Mr. Atkinson had previously been a partner at Franklin Capital Investors, which managed the University of Pennsylvania endowment. Before Franklin, Mr. Atkinson managed a mutual fund for Scudder, Stevens & Clark that invested in emerging growth stocks.

Mr. Atkinson received his MBA at Penn’s Wharton School, with a bachelor’s degree from Cornell. He was an officer in the Navy for two years.

The hospital’s matching program is available from June 6, 2008 through December 31, 2010.

In early 2007, the New Jersey State Department of Health and Senior Services officially supported the hospital’s relocation by granting a Certificate of Need. In January 2008, Plainsboro Township adopted the necessary zoning to permit the hospital’s construction. The hospital’s site plan is now under review by Plainsboro Township.

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