Planned Giving

Donor Stories

World Travels, Pigs, and the Hildegarde Howard Society

Photo of Eileen and Dick Garson
Hildegarde Howard Society members Eileen and Dick Garson

Eileen and Dick Garson Create a Lasting Legacy at the Museum

"I'm not sure when that was. Let's see if we marked a pig," says Eileen Garson as she determines exactly when she and her husband Dick traveled with Museum Curator Karen Wise to Peru. She consults a painted wooden pig they acquired on the trip and confirms, "It was 1999."

The Garsons, who recently made a planned gift and joined the Museum's Hildegarde Howard Society, have been members and supporters of the Natural History Museum since the 1970s and world travelers and decorative-pig collectors since well before that. In fact, their longtime association with NHM and other museums inspired them to catalogue their extensive pig collection in much the same way a museum would, marking the item with the month and year that it was acquired. Dick estimates that they have up to 12,000 pig-related pieces, with a complete database of the collection from 1985 on. Among the rarest items are several pieces of jade carved in the form of pigs, including one dating to China's Sixth Dynasty (AD 220-589), acquired when the Garsons were in China—during the Year of the Pig, of course.

They have traveled with NHM curators to Peru and Tunisia and plan to take the Fellows Alaskan cruise this June. Their travels have also taken them to Hong Kong and Singapore as well as throughout Europe, South America, and the U.S., and they never miss visiting a museum wherever they go. Their trips have included a few unexpected adventures, including when they were on a ship in the Falkland Islands that was detained for nonpayment of fees, and they had to return by way of a rickety bus across Patagonia.

The Garsons love museums and belong to many institutions throughout Southern California and in Washington, D.C. They care a great deal about the Natural History Museum and credit its success to the diversity of the collections and programs, the great exhibits and events, and the opportunity to get to know and even travel with many of the curators over the years. They made their gift to the Museum, says Dick, because "We wanted to make a lasting contribution that will help sustain the Museum far into the future."

The Hildegarde Howard Society was established in 2004 to recognize and celebrate donors such as the Garsons for making planned gifts to the Museum. For more information about the Society or about planned-giving opportunities at the Museum, please call Nicole Dunn, senior major gifts officer, at (213) 763-3355.


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