Mysterious Benefactor Leaves a Legacy to Improve Children’s Health

Originally published on March 22, 2023 in the Duke University School of Medicine’s Magnify Magazine by Dave Hart

In an age when people share the details of their days on social media and you can learn almost anything about almost anybody with a few clicks, it is not easy to pass through a long life and leave behind as little public record as Swann Lee did.

She was an attorney based in Manhattan who worked for an investment banking firm for 30 years. She was married once, to a man who predeceased her by four decades, and had no children. When she died in July 2021 at the age of 99, she left no heirs. No obituary has surfaced.

As far as anyone can tell, she had no direct ties to Duke University. There is no record of her, or any relative of hers, having been enrolled as a student at Duke, employed as faculty or staff, or treated as a patient at any Duke clinic or by any Duke provider.

So, it came as a surprise to learn that Lee had left the bulk of her estate — some $11 million — to Duke.

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