Dr. Elo Giblett told Leslie Giblett, pictured in the University of Washington’s Sylvan Grove, that the UW “had given her an opportunity to be someone.” In gratitude, the world-famous hematologist and her niece decided to create a lasting legacy at UW Medicine: the Elo Giblett Endowed Professorship. Leslie is shown holding Dr. Giblett’s photograph.
As children, Leslie Giblett and her siblings went to their Aunt Elo’s house every Sunday. Leslie’s siblings were a little afraid of their aunt — her lab coat, her experiments, her jokes (made in Latin).
Not Leslie. She and her aunt got along famously. Elo helped Leslie with her math and science homework. They visited Puget Sound Blood Center, Elo’s professional home, where Leslie played with the centrifuge. When Leslie was working on a school report on weather, Elo helped her rig a weather balloon. The resulting information on temperature, collected every two hours and presented in graph form, astonished Leslie’s elementary school teacher.
This isn’t a typical family story. Then again, most families do not number scientific giants among their members. Eloise Giblett, M.S. ’47, M.D. ’51, Fel. ’55, was a UW research professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Nobel Prize nominee, a pioneering genetic scientist and a perfectionist. “Elo was an amazing human being, a wonderful person. She also happened to be one our school’s first female graduates,” says Paul G. Ramsey, M.D., CEO of UW Medicine. “She set a very high standard — for all of us.”
Janis L. Abkowitz, M.D., UW professor of medicine, head of UW Medicine’s Division of Hematology, and holder of the Clement A. Finch, M.D. Endowed Professorship in Hematology, remembers the first time she met Dr. Giblett. Abkowitz was interviewing for a fellowship when then-division head Clem Finch, M.D., told her she had to meet Giblett — immediately. “He put me in a cab to the blood center,” she says. (Dr. Giblett served as the head of immunogenetics at Puget Sound Blood Center from 1955 to 1979 and as executive director from 1980 to 1987.)
Giblett was a “rigorous scientist, very creative in the way she applied methods to new science areas,” says Abkowitz, and her work has had lasting impact. Dr. Giblett discovered the first genetic immunodeficiency disorder. In addition, her study of red cell antigens led to safer transfusion of red blood cells as well as a new understanding of the cells’ variations. “She really launched the field of genetic diversity,” says Abkowitz.
With the help of her niece Leslie, Eloise Giblett is leaving another legacy in the Division of Hematology: the Elo Giblett Endowed Professorship.
Leslie remembers some of the conversations she had with her aunt 20 years ago, when Dr. Giblett first began thinking about her will. “The University of Washington had meant so much to her,” recalls Leslie. When Elo asked Leslie what she thought she should do with her estate, Leslie replied: “I think you should leave them a bunch of money.”
Dr. Giblett followed her niece’s advice, leaving a planned gift to the School of Medicine. Later, realizing that the amount wasn’t going to reach the minimum needed to create a professorship, Leslie, a former Microsoft employee, stepped in with the remainder.
“Leslie is tremendous,” says Abkowitz. “Professorships are really helpful to us — they give us flexible funds to support a person and to support divisional efforts.”
Giving to the professorship was a simple decision for Leslie Giblett. She hopes the funding will draw people of her aunt’s caliber to UW Medicine. The gift is also a measure of simple, deep affection.
“I felt that it was really important to remember Elo,” says Leslie.