The New York Public Library and the Central Park Conservancy have announced bequests of $10 million each from longtime supporter Mary McConnell Bailey, a widow and heiress who by all accounts lived and died modestly.
Nearly two years after Bailey's death in February 2011 at the age of 88, gifts totaling roughly $20 million have begun flowing from her estate to the library and the conservancy. NYPL plans to use its bequest to support programming, materials, and resources for its eighty-seven branch libraries and four research libraries, said NYPL spokesperson Amy Geduldig. Central Park Conservancy president Douglas Blonsky said it was left to his organization to decide how best to use the funds.
A native of Northampton, Massachusetts, who moved to New York City in the 1940s, Bailey inherited her wealth from her mother's family, which was involved in the Roaring Spring Blank Book Company, known for its marble-covered school composition books. She did not remarry after her husband was killed in World War II, and though she studied early childhood education at Columbia University and briefly taught kindergarten, she lived a quiet life after coming into her inheritance, volunteering at local schools and hospitals. She made it clear she did not want a funeral or an obituary when she died, a friend told the New York Post.
"Mary was quiet," said John Bacon, NYPL's director of planned giving. "She didn't call attention to herself and never hinted at her fortune. In the years that I knew her, I would never have guessed the enormous gift she would give us."