CNEWA Benefactor, George Doty, Dies at 94

RYE, N.Y. (CNS) — Catholic philanthropist George Doty, a member of the Knights of Malta, died April 24 in New York at age 94. No cause of death was given.

His funeral was scheduled for April 30 at Church of the Resurrection in Rye.

Also a member of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, Doty helped temper the centuries-long conflict between the Franciscans, Armenians and Greek Orthodox who hold joint custody of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem — believed to rest on the spot where Jesus was buried following his crucifixion — to get the church’s damaged dome repaired and restored.

The breakthrough came in 1995 when Doty and his wife, Marie, gave the basilica custodians $5 million to help with the restoration. The restored dome features a clear center through which the sun streams. Exploding from it are 12 sunlit rays of gold for the Twelve Apostles, each ray with three streams of light for the Trinity, against an off-white background studded with stars.

The Dotys subsidized the work of Bethlehem University, the only Catholic institution of higher education in the Holy Land. They also supported the Catholic Near East Welfare Association’s housing renovation program in Jerusalem’s Old City section, and invested in CNEWA’s labor-intensive program in the West Bank, which put thousands of the unemployed back to work while bolstering Christian institutions.

On one of their visits to the Holy Land in the 1990s, Marie Doty quietly observed to her husband that “the children have no place to play.” As a result, the Dotys provided CNEWA with the funds to build and equip playgrounds and related facilities in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza.

In addition to swings and slides, handball and basketball courts, the parks feature fountains and green lawns, luxuries Palestinian children once associated with Israeli settlements. The park in Bethlehem had to be rededicated in 2001 after Israeli-Palestinian violence over the preceding year left the park nearly empty of visitors.

In 1990, George Doty financed some physical changes to the Sistine Chapel to accommodate the growing number of tourists wishing to visit. Those changes included the installation of ramps, lifts and other amenities that make most of the exhibits accessible to all people, as well as the installation of an elevator connecting the two levels of the museums’ galleries.

Members of Friends and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, Doty and his wife made a grant of $100,000 to Boston College to start a summer program for deans and administrators in Catholic higher education.

Born Feb. 15, 1918, Doty graduated from Fordham University in New York in 1938 and eventually became chairman of the school’s board of trustees. He was a managing partner in the Goldman Sachs investment firm until his retirement in 1984. Many of the philanthropic efforts he and his wife engaged in were meant to alleviate poverty, strengthen higher education and support family life.

Marie Doty died in 2008.

Doty is survived by five children, 16 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and a sister.

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