Alumna’s estate gift to U Medical School honors life she and her husband shared
Born in 1907 in Browns Valley, Minnesota, near the South Dakota border, Mary LaDue was ahead of her time. An independent-minded young woman, she graduated from high school at age 15 and completed her degree at the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts in three years. Her father encouraged the teenager to learn about financial matters and gave her $2,000 to invest—a skill she honed over her lifetime and ultimately used to benefit others.
Mary met her future husband, Max E. Pickworth, at a University dance, fell in love, and in 1932 eloped without her father’s knowledge. (Later, in a letter to Mary, her father lamented missing the chance to walk his only daughter down the aisle but enclosed $5,000.)
A 1930 graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School, Max was a director of medical surgery for the U.S. Air Force during World War II, then opened one of the first private surgical practices in San Jose, California. Tragically, he died of a massive heart attack at age 49.
Mary, who died last fall shortly after her 100th birthday, never remarried. She honored her late husband by leaving an estate gift of more than $4 million to the University of Minnesota Medical School. The Max E. and Mary LaDue Pickworth Endowment Fund will create a permanent source of income to advance medical education and research at the Medical School.
“One reason this gift is so remarkable is that Mary Pickworth did not prescribe how to use her money,” says Medical School Dean Deborah Powell, M.D. “She simply recognized the need and allowed us to choose how to invest—a rare opportunity for our Medical School.”
Powell has created two endowed chairs with the gift. With a match from the Permanent University Fund, she has established the Max E. and Mary LaDue Pickworth Endowed Research Chair, which will be held by Mustafa al’Absi, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral science and director of the new Duluth Medical Research Institute at the Medical School-Duluth Campus.
Al’Absi is internationally known for his research on the links between stress, pain, and addiction.
The Pickworth gift also will fund an endowed chair in neuroscience to be held by Timothy Ebner, M.D., Ph.D., professor and head of the Department of Neuroscience, on the University’s Twin Cities campus. Ebner studies how the brain communicates with the body to control movement.
Beverly Bourbon, Mary LaDue Pickworth’s friend and personal representative, says Pickworth was “intelligent, caring, and feisty” and proud to be a woman of her generation who not only understood finances but also handled all of her own investments.
“Many times, Mary would regale me with stories of her investments,” Bourbon recalls. “She wanted to put her money to best use at the Medical School, and she wanted to leave a legacy that reflected the life of giving and caring that she and Max had shared.”