Donor Spotlight: Evelyn Greenspan

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on June 30, 2022 # Compassion

EvelynFor many families who support the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, spinal cord injury research is personal. When they lace-up sneakers for Team Reeve fundraisers or come together at A Magical Evening, it is in urgent pursuit of treatments that will improve the lives of loved ones with injuries.

But sometimes generosity grows from afar – from a desire to help simply for the sake of helping.

Evelyn Greenspan lived a long, full life untouched by paralysis. Yet, when she died in 2019, just months shy of her 99th birthday, Greenspan bequeathed an extraordinary $100,000 to the Reeve Foundation. The unexpected gift helped support research efforts across the country – and served as a powerful reminder that a stranger’s selfless gesture can advance the hopes of thousands of families.

Greenspan’s support for the Reeve Foundation stemmed from her admiration of Christopher Reeve and his relentless efforts to accelerate treatments for spinal cord injuries. Like Reeve, she believed in the potential for scientific progress, hoping that stem cell research, in particular, might yield effective and more widely available therapies for patients.

“She wanted to help the common man,” said her son, Marius Greenspan. “She was a huge proponent of medicine, of good health for everyone.”

EvelynBorn and raised in Binghamton, New York, Greenspan’s life was defined by a boundless curiosity about the wider world. She graduated from Cornell University in 1942 and moved to New Orleans, eventually hosting a radio show on a local station. The program, mixing talk and music formats, was a dream job for a person who chose to ride the bus not only to save money but for the chance to chat with strangers.

“She believed in learning something every day,” Marius Greenspan said. “She was always asking questions. She had no agenda; she was just genuinely interested in people.”

In 1955, she met her husband Earl, moved to Illinois, and raised two sons in a close-knit family that shaped the rest of her life. At the age of 69, Greenspan began studying for a law degree, but stopped after Earl was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After his death, she split her time between her son Gerald’s home in Columbus, Ohio and in Fort Meyers, Florida, joining a community chorus, attending the local symphony, and traveling the world until she was in her mid-90s.

It was a happy life that left a mark, not only on Greenspan’s family, but the beneficiaries of her quiet altruism. She donated to institutions ranging from Cornell University and the Southwest Florida Symphony to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, funding charitable trusts and scientific research without the need or want of recognition.

But the work of the Reeve Foundation would not be possible without the support of families working tirelessly to accelerate treatments for loved ones living with paralysis – and individuals like Greenspan who choose to push for progress on behalf of strangers.

Such generosity, even when quietly given, deserves to be celebrated.

“My mother just believed in good causes,” said Marius Greenspan. “She was a rare individual.”

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.