July 9, 1999

VUMC mourns loss of Grace McVeigh

VUMC mourns loss of Grace McVeigh


Grace McVeigh

Though her long and successful career carried her across the globe in search of untapped reserves of oil, Grace McVeigh's heart was never far from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The 1925 graduate of Vanderbilt University – who has endowed five scholarships for medical students and was one of the original members of the Canby Robinson Society – died on June 28. She was 98.

For decades, Miss McVeigh was a strong and active supporter of VUMC and its missions in education, research and patient care. She was also a vibrant, loving woman who touched the lives of all she knew, said Dr. C. Leon Partain, Pendergrass Professor and Chair of VUMC's Department of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, and a friend of Miss McVeigh's for 20 years.

"Grace was a faithful and loyal alum and a special friend of the School of Medicine and its students," he said. "She was also a special friend to me, my wife Judy and our whole family. We kind of adopted each other, and vacationed and spent holidays together.

"She taught us a great deal about life through her generosity and her discipline and the way she valued her friends. She was truly a wonderful woman who lit up everyone's lives, and she was bright, alert and had a twinkle in her eyes up to the end.

"We loved her dearly, and we felt her love too," Partain said.

Miss McVeigh's love and support of the School of Medicine was truly strong, said Dr. John E. Chapman, dean of the School of Medicine.

"Grace McVeigh was of, for and with Vanderbilt and its students. And she attended to those feelings through her generous support of scholarships for medical students over the course of many years.

"We will miss her, though her plans included initiatives that will ensure that she will live on into the future, as experienced by her medical students," Chapman said.

Miss McVeigh once considered a career in medicine and was even accepted to VUSM. Family obligations kept her from that path, so, armed with her Vanderbilt degree in Biochemistry, she launched a nearly 30-year career as a geo-physicist for the Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO). Studying charts to determine where precious oil might be found, Miss McVeigh's work took her to South America and the Middle East. She contributed to the analysis of data that eventually led to the discovery of the rich oil fields near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Miss McVeigh's support for VUMC was also a family affair for many years. It was her mother, Bess McVeigh, who kept in touch with Vanderbilt when her daughter was out of the country, attending class reunions and other events. It was a joint decision between the two women to provide scholarship support for Vanderbilt medical students, Miss McVeigh said a few years ago.

Through charitable estate planning, she established several scholarships that provide full tuition for four years, awarded to students on the basis of academic merit and financial need. The Bess McVeigh Scholarship memorializes her mother; the Townsend McVeigh Scholarship memorializes her father; and the C. Leon and Judy Partain Scholarship honors Dr. Partain.

The latter scholarships recognize the contributions of the physicians who cared for Miss McVeigh. More importantly, they serve as symbols of significant friendships developed over the years. In addition, they serve as continuous vehicles to remember Grace McVeigh and her committment to excellence in medicine and at her beloved alma mater.

Another scholarship supports students in the M.D./Ph.D. program and is named for Miss McVeigh's close friends, Mary and Dr. William O. Inman Jr.

A memorial service for Miss McVeigh will be held on Thursday, July 8 at 4 p.m. at Benton Chapel.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Grace McVeigh Scholarship fund at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.