Noted philanthropist and volunteer, Kate Ireland passed away at her home at Foshalee Plantation in northern Florida on Feb. 15, 2011. She was 80 years old. A memorial service will be held in Thomasville, Georgia, at All Saints Episcopal Church on Friday, March 4, at 4 p.m.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Ms. Ireland was born on Aug. 25, 1930 to a wealthy family with a tradition of philanthropy, volunteering and public service. In 1951, at 21 years of age, she temporarily moved to Leslie County, Kentucky, to volunteer with Frontier Nursing Service, an agency founded by Mary Breckenridge that provided social and health services to indigent residents of rural Kentucky. Ms. Ireland worked as a courier, delivering medicine by horseback. Ten years later she was appointed director of volunteers for Frontier Nursing. In 1966, Ms. Ireland established permanent residence in Kentucky and in 1975 she was appointed chairperson of the organization’s board.
Ms. Ireland’s dedication to the region continued for many years. In 1971 she began serving as a Berea College trustee which lasted for 21 years. In 1987 she was elected chairperson of the college’s board of trustees before retiring five years later. While serving on the board, Ms. Ireland was involved in the development, nominating, building and grounds, presidential search and executive committees. As chairperson she helped lead a $65 million Berea Vision fundraising campaign. In 1992, Berea College passed a Resolution of Appreciation noting Ms. Ireland’s “energy and loyalty to Berea College.” In recognition of her generosity to Berea College, the Kate Ireland Trustee Room in Seabury Athletic Complex was named in her honor in 1995.
Berea College President Larry Shinn remembers Ms. Ireland as, “a fun-filled, no-nonsense, compassionate, direct and generous trustee of Berea College. She knew the towns and ‘hollers’ from which many Berea students come because she lived in eastern Kentucky for many years and served the needs of that region. She is a dear friend who will be deeply missed.”
During her time in Kentucky, Ms. Ireland served as chairperson of Kentucky River Area Development District, a trustee of Appalachian Regional Hospitals, a board member of Leslie County Cooperative Extension Service, a trustee of Kentucky Association for Mental Health, a trustee of Pine Mountain Settlement School and a director of Hyden Citizens Bancorp.
In 1973, Ms. Ireland became a limited partner in a 155 year-old Wall Street private banking firm. In 1986 she was appointed to a three-year term on the Cincinnati Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
Known as a “professional volunteer,” Ms. Ireland commented on the importance of volunteering in an interview in Congressional Record (1978), “I feel that anyone, male or female, whatever color, religion or social class who has any belief in God or a spiritual being, must volunteer his or her services. If one can’t do anything for someone else without getting money for it, one isn’t a whole person.”
Ms. Ireland earned many honors during her lifetime. She was awarded honorary degrees from Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Kentucky, and Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. She also received a distinguished service award from Midway College.
Ms. Ireland attended Laurel School in Cleveland and Vassar College in New York before moving to Kentucky. She was a noted naturalist and outdoors person committed to preserving Red Hills of northern Florida, where she lived after moving from Kentucky. She is the namesake of Kate Ireland Parkway in Florida.