Stealthily Wealthy

Jul. 19, 2021
Evelyn Lutz may have lived frugally, but she left a small fortune to universities that shaped her

By all accounts, Evelyn Lutz ’55N, ’63 lived modestly.

A child of the Great Depression, she retained the ethos of that time, living simply and stretching every dollar to its fullest. She shopped carefully, purchasing only the things she needed and avoiding costly name brand items whenever possible, and she thoughtfully repurposed and reused items others would consider disposable. Meanwhile, she was quietly socking away cash and investing it smartly, building a portfolio that allowed her to support charities and organizations that were dear to her heart. A truer sense of her generosity and selflessness became apparent after she died.

When she succumbed on Nov. 21 at the age 86 from complications of COVID-19, Lutz left more than $2 million to universities that helped shape her life as a nurse, professor, and college administrator.

Among the donations provided for in her estate was a $641,000 gift to the University of Rochester School of Nursing to establish the Dr. Evelyn M. Lutz Nursing Research Endowment. The fund will support the school’s efforts in data analysis, pilot funding, research project coordination activities, and recruitment.

“Research is critical to the nursing profession because it provides the foundation for comprehensive, evidence-based clinical practice,” said Kathy Rideout, EdD, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, dean of the UR School of Nursing. “Evelyn’s tremendously generous and thoughtful gift will ensure that future generations will now have more opportunities to make critical discoveries that improve human health.”

Evelyn Lutz

Lutz left a similarly sized gift to Case Western Reserve University, and more than $1.3 million to the University of Colorado. Lutz, who received her nursing diploma in 1955 and her bachelor’s degree in 1963 from the University of Rochester, earned a master’s degree from the University of Colorado and her doctorate from Case Western. She went on to hold teaching and leadership positions at Case Western, Kent State and Xavier University and authored several books on nursing.

In retirement, Lutz moved back to her hometown of Elmira, where her parents had owned a meat market and Lutz worked part time in order to put herself through college. She never married and had no children, but she was active in her church and the community. And she never forgot the impact the universities she attended had on her life. Always a steady donor, Lutz was a charter member of the George Eastman Circle at the University of Rochester and had notified UR officials of her plans to leave a sizable gift to the School of Nursing, but the final amount was more substantial than anticipated.

The understated nature of her gift fit with Lutz’s overall philosophy. She never wanted to draw attention to herself or her wealth, said Sue Mower, Lutz’s second cousin who became her caretaker.

“She led such an interesting life,” Mower told the Elmira Star-Gazette. “She was extremely private and didn’t like to be celebrated or recognized.”

With one exception. In 2010, Lutz returned to the School of Nursing to accept the John N. Wilder Award, which honors an individual, family, corporation or foundation whose philanthropy inspires others in support of an “Ever Better” University of Rochester.

In that, she no doubt succeeded.