One Donor Offers a Lifetime of Support

February 11, 2023

Philanthropy is often an expression of connection and meaning, and for Joan Collins, giving to McLean has been about both gratitude and reducing stigma.

From gifts to improve patient comfort to bolstering research and supporting the hospital overall with unrestricted gifts, Collins has been an insightful donor to McLean for nearly 35 years.

“I think people aren’t interested in mental health until it affects them, or their children, personally,” she said. “It’s important to be open about our experiences. It’s also incredibly satisfying to support an organization that is consistently ranked #1.”

Collins is a member of the McLean Board of Visitors and the Mary Belknap Society—McLean’s annual giving group—and has included McLean in her estate plans. Her support has been felt in both broad and specific ways, and she seeks to support the programs, projects, and people that feel most important in the moment.

In 1989, Collins established the Joan M. Collins Investigator Endowed Fund to support research into affective disorders, which has come to focus on women’s mental health. The impetus behind this generosity was Collins’ own experience with decades-long depression.

She credits Dr. Alex Vuckovic, medical director at The Pavilion at McLean, and the late Dr. John Gunderson with saving her life and giving her the skills to manage her illness.

Joan M. Collins

Joan M. Collins

A decade later, Collins funded the Joan M. Collins Library at The Pavilion. At the time of the gift, Collins said “We need to get over the stigma of mental illness, and by being public, I want to encourage others to donate and get involved.”

Over the years, Collins has contributed funds to increase patient access, purchase equipment, and refurbish patient spaces, among other things.

“Joan stands out for the longevity of her relationship to McLean, but also for the comprehensive ways in which she has supported the hospital,” said Lori Etringer, MBA, senior vice president and chief development officer.

“She quietly and consistently has propelled us toward greater insights through research, awareness through advocacy, and resources through her philanthropy.”

Today, Collins is impressed by the range of programs—especially those for women—that didn’t exist when she first came to McLean.

“In my day, women’s mental health wasn’t something people focused on,” said Collins. “I’m thrilled to see McLean’s pioneering work in this field.”

Reflecting on her long relationship with McLean and the range of initiatives she has supported, Collins explained that “the need is everywhere, and sometimes small things get left behind for lack of funds. I like to support things that benefit the well-being of a patient, like gym equipment or new furniture. These little things make a big difference.”


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