A Benefactor’s Deep Roots

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The 1949 storm made history. Lightning hit the beloved McGuffey Ash tree on the Lawn, sending bark and pieces of wood flying onto the convertible automobile owned by medical resident Randolph Pillow (Col ’42, Med ’44). Planted in the garden of Pavilion IX in 1826, the tree—which survived—was named for William Holmes McGuffey, philosophy professor and author of McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers. Dr. Pillow gathered bits of debris and made them into paperweights, fragments of UVA history that were among his most prized possessions.

Dr. Pillow often recalled with great affection the time he spent living on the Lawn of the historic Academical Village. During his medical residency he lived in one of the back rooms of the Colonnade Club, but when he was an undergraduate he spent his fourth year in 6 East Range. He was a top student and member of the Virginia Glee Club, Phi Beta Kappa and the Raven Society.

Dr. Pillow was a longtime benefactor of the UVA Health System, and gave a collection of medical antiques in 2011 to the Historical Collections of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. Before his death in February 2015, at age 94, Dr. Pillow, through his will, made a gift of $6 million to the University to create the Randolph Preston Pillow Fund
for Excellence.

Funds benefit areas across Grounds, including the following:

  • Randolph Preston Pillow Scholarships in Arts & SciencesRandolph Preston Pillow Jefferson Scholars EndowmentDr. Randolph Preston Pillow Music Library Fund
  • Dr. Randolph Preston Pillow Projects in Music Fund (lesson scholarships)
  • Randolph Preston Pillow Endowed Fund for the Historic Buildings and Grounds
  • Randolph Preston Pillow Fund for Excellence in the Office of the Provost (scholarships)

A native of Roanoke, Virginia, after his residency in internal medicine at UVA Hospital, Dr. Pillow moved to Seattle, where he worked from 1949 to 1986 as a physician, partner and eventually president of the staff at the Virginia Mason Clinic, now Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center. Virginia Mason was founded in 1920 by Drs. James Tate Mason (Med ’05) and John Minor Blackford (Col ’06, Med ’10) and selected many internists from UVA.

Dr. Pillow also left a substantial sum to the Seattle Foundation, which will in turn fund a merit scholarship each year for the most qualified medical student accepted to UVA from the state of Washington. He envisioned this as a way to perpetuate the strong ties between the UVA School of Medicine and the state of Washington.

Drawn to the Seattle waterfront, Dr. Pillow was a longtime hydroplane racing enthusiast. From 1950 to 1975, he sailed hydroplane races throughout the Pacific Northwest. As medical chairman during Seattle’s annual Seafair Weekend on Lake Washington, he oversaw the work of doctors and nurses on racing days.

Dr. Pillow was also an avid gardener, world traveler and collector of antiques. Some of his papers are currently housed at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry.

In his own way, through the stories he often told friends and members of the University community—and through his paperweight collection—Randolph Pillow kept the University with him always, throughout his life. His gifts will continue as important parts of UVA’s history.

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