University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota Foundation
Giving to medicine and health at the University of Minnesota

A family's legacy

Kaye Lillehei

Katherine “Kaye” Lillehei believed in spending money wisely.

A longtime coupon clipper who hesitated to throw anything away, Lillehei knew she was making a good investment when she committed $13 million to create the Lillehei Heart Institute (LHI) and $3 million to create the Katherine R. and C. Walton Lillehei Endowed Chair in Nursing Leadership at the University of Minnesota in 2000. It was the largest gift in University history at the time.

Kaye Lillehei, a University-educated nurse, was married to University alumnus and surgeon C. Walton Lillehei, M.D., Ph.D.—known to many as “the father of open-heart surgery.”

After Walt died in 1999, Kaye wanted to do something significant to support the University and honor its strong tradition of research and innovation as well as to educate the next generation of nurses and doctors.

“She supported the University for her entire life,” says grandson Troy Loken. And by giving to medical efforts at the University, she felt that “you’re not just supporting a hospital, you’re supporting a teaching hospital,” Loken says.

Kaye Lillehei died in November at age 91. Her family felt it was only right to honor her by making a gift to the University. In addition to the Lillehei Family Foundation’s $50,000 gift, the LHI received another 32 gifts in her memory totaling more than $17,000.

To make a gift to the Lillehei Heart Institute in Kaye Lillehei’s honor, visit:

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