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A Daughter's Tribute: Foundation Donation Empowers Basic Science Research in Pathology

Mary Jane McMillen Crowe

This story was published in the March 2024 issue of The Philanthropist, a newsletter for supporters and friends of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Read past issues here.

March 15, 2024

In 2018, two paths crossed that would result in a heartfelt partnership supporting vital basic science and pathology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Linda Tate, steward of the Mary Jane McMillen Crowe Foundation, had found herself surrounded by friends and family members with cancer diagnoses, and she wanted to do what she could to try to stem that tide. She was also cognizant of her mother’s lifelong desire to do good—and sought to honor her, Mary Jane McMillen Crowe ’33, through philanthropy.

Meanwhile, Daniel J. Brat, MD, PhD, was just beginning his tenure at Northwestern as chair of the Department of Pathology and Magerstadt Professor of Pathology. He had spent 18 years on faculty in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Emory University and was acclimating to his new role. Mrs. Tate called Dr. Brat just a few months into his tenure, explained her devastation over her friends’ cancer diagnoses, and asked how she could help.

Dr. Brat

“I was so touched by this. You know, departments of pathology rarely receive philanthropic funds from donors,” Dr. Brat said. “We are behind-the-scenes physicians and scientists—we don't have much direct interaction with patients. So, just the fact that she was reaching out at all was a significant event.”

Mrs. Tate was plugged into Northwestern before she could walk. Her mother, Mrs. McMillen Crowe, graduated from Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 1933, spent decades as an active alumna and donor, and served as a Life Trustee of the University until her death in 1997. In 2003, Northwestern completed construction on the Mary Jane McMillen Crowe Hall on the Evanston campus, enshrining her legacy at Weinberg and the University.

Diary entry of Mary Jane McMillen Crowe

Mrs. McMillen Crowe was determined to do her part to give back to her community, Mrs. Tate said. A diary entry of Mrs. McMillen Crowe’s from March 1938 quotes Etienne de Grellet, a 19th-century missionary: “I expect to pass this way but once. Therefore, if there is any kindness, or any good I can do for any human being, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Mrs. Tate assumed leadership of her mother’s foundation in the early 1990s. She said she has been mindful over the years of causes she believes her mother would have wanted to support, and she keeps coming back to Northwestern.

“This school meant so much to her,” she said. “I always used to call it her third child.”

Over the years since they first connected with Dr. Brat, Mrs. Tate and her husband, Larry, have given generously to support the purchase of top-of-the-line lab equipment that has aided in novel pathology research. Through her giving, Mrs. Tate is a member of the Lifetime Giving Society within The Founders Society, as well as the Northwestern University Leadership Circle.

In January 2024, the Tates finally met Dr. Brat in person. The Tates drove to Chicago from their home in Carmel, Indiana, and once on the medical school campus, they toured the Pathology labs housing the equipment they had helped purchase and met the scientists benefiting from their generosity.

“It almost made me cry when we went up to meet [Dr. Brat],” Mrs. Tate said. “He spent the day with us, showing us around all the things that the University has to offer and what our money had helped them buy.”

Thanks to the Tates, the department has been able to purchase, among other instruments, a multi-laser, multicolor flow cytometer, a whole slide scanner, and a MERSCOPE.

In 2023, the Tates supported the department’s purchase of the MERSCOPE. This device provides single-cell and spatial transcriptomic analysis—imaging technology through which investigators can study gene expression within a certain cell population, such as immune cells, vascular cells, or tumor cells. This information is extremely helpful to pathologists who aim to understand disease states at the cellular and molecular levels.

The MERSCOPE is still undergoing setup within the department, but the other equipment purchased by the Tates has already seen heavy use.

“These instruments are used from day to night every single day and help us advance our science, publish in great journals, and get grant support,” Dr. Brat said. “We are very grateful for the Tates’ trust in allowing us to choose what instruments we think would benefit us the most and supporting their requisition.”

Larry Tate, MD, a retired forensic pathologist, said the dedication to research within the department was palpable.

“We could see the excitement in their eyes for the fact that they had these instruments to carry on the kind of cutting-edge research that they're doing, especially in areas of brain tumors,” Dr. Tate said. “Basic research often just doesn't get the kind of support that it needs.”

For more information about supporting the Department of Pathology, please contact David G. McCreery at or 312-503-6099.