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Eileen Quick sincerely appreciated the sentiment, but she had a better idea.
A member of the most philanthropic family in the history of St. Bonaventure University, Quick politely declined the school’s offer to award her an honorary degree. From her perspective, Maggie Doyne deserved it more.
Doyne, who spent $5,000 of her babysitting savings to open a home for children in Nepal, received an honorary degree from St. Bonaventure Monday (Dec. 7) at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.
"I've done this presentation 1,000 times, and often open it up to questions right afterward," Doyne told members of the university community. "And so often the first question I'm asked is where did I eventually go to college and get my degree. The answer is always that I didn't.
"But after today," she said, fighting back tears, "I can say that I did."
Doyne was named CNN’s Hero of the Year on Nov. 17, winning $100,000 for her foundation. The CNN telecast of the awards ceremony aired Dec. 6.
“Maggie's life of service has drawn international attention and we believe she exemplifies the kind of generosity and moral imagination we wish our students to possess when they graduate,” said Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., university president.
In 2006, during a gap-year service trip after high school, Doyne was caring for Nepalese refugees at an orphanage in India when she went to Nepal to help a girl find her family.
Awestruck by the number of orphans she witnessed in the war-torn country, Doyne phoned home, asked her parents for her babysitting money, bought a piece of land, and founded the Kopila Valley Children’s Home. She never returned to the U.S. to attend college.
Doyne was particularly moved by the sight of a 6-year-old girl breaking stones in a dry riverbed and selling them to earn a few rupees to feed her family.
“Maggie often talks about that moment, seeing that girl, wondering what had become of the human family,” Quick said. “Maggie always says, ‘I saw myself in her.’”
Doyne subsequently built and now manages the Kopila Valley Primary School in Surkhet. More than 50 children live in the Kopila Valley Children’s Home and more than 370 children attend the primary school.
Quick, who lives just a few miles from the Doyne family in northern New Jersey, became familiar with Doyne’s work in Nepal after reading a story in a local newspaper. She contacted Doyne to see how the Quick family could help her cause.
Today, Quick serves as vice chair for Doyne’s Blinknow Foundation, which Doyne, now 29, started to support her Kopila Valley projects and to encourage other young people to volunteer in developing countries.
Quick and her daughter Maura visited Nepal in September 2014 at the urgent request of Doyne, who was at a hospital in Katmandu with a dangerously ill baby boy. Doyne needed someone she trusted with international travel experience to come look after the baby so she could return to Surkhet to help deal with serious flooding.
The Quicks brought the boy back to Kopila Valley a week after he had been discharged.
“I’ve traveled all over the world with Operation Smile, and Nepal is one of the poorest countries I’ve seen,” Quick said. “But those kids are so happy and it’s because of Maggie. They are family. It’s truly a home, not an orphanage. She does not use that word because that’s not what it is.”
In 2013, Doyne and her team opened the Kopila Valley Women’s Center, providing literacy and vocational skills training to the women of Surkhet. Now, they are working to build a permanent nursery-to-12th-grade campus using innovative, sustainable technology.
Doyne has received numerous awards and commendations for her work, including the Do Something Awards grand prize (2009) and CosmoGirl of the Year (2008).
“Maggie has all the right intentions,” Quick said. “She’s sincere, she’s humble, she’s willing to admit when she makes a mistake, and she has a tremendous amount of energy that is all focused on these kids and providing a better world for them.”
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