Emory Brain Health Expertise Motivates Gift From Margaret Hylton Jones 69C
Over her lifetime of caring for loved ones with brain illnesses, Margaret Hylton Jones 69C has turned to her alma mater for help. For every medical need and her role as a caregiver, Emory University and Emory Healthcare delivered critical resources.
Gratitude inspired her estate gift to the Emory Brain Health Center for research that helps patients live longer and better, and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health for serving these patients as well as people coping with unrelenting stress, like their caregivers.
"I come from a family of givers, and I wanted to do something to help enhance the quality of life for those who deal with brain disease and disability," she says. "I feel the best use of my resources is to help others not experience the life I have had. Not that I'm bitter; in a lot of ways, it's been a gift to take care of people I love."
Jones's estate gift will provide unrestricted funds for research, teaching, and patient care by Emory experts in neurosurgery, psychiatry, and related brain health areas. These resources became important to her shortly after she arrived on campus in the mid-1960s from her hometown of Nashville.
"I knew my life was not like other people's, and I went straight to the student psychological counseling office, where I ended up talking to a psychiatry resident at Emory," she recalls. "Most of my adult life, I have had some counseling or therapy even though it was frowned upon in my family. To do what I needed to do, I needed support."
Since age 9, her life and opportunities have been defined by brain diseases. Her father, an engineer, became disabled after surgery to remove a grapefruit-sized benign brain tumor. Her mother's alcoholism meant Jones became a caretaker for her younger sister.
"It's hard to understand how overwhelming caregiving can be and how it completely changes the dynamic of the nuclear and extended families," she says. "Every time the phone would ring, I wondered, 'What happened now?' You are always on the clock, and every day can bring a crisis."
At Emory, Jones majored in English and worked in publications at Emory as a student and after graduation. She deepened her Emory connections by pursuing a master's degree in Southern studies and chairing her class reunions. She married director of publications Virgil Hartley 54C.
Jones always made her home close to campus, and after both of her grandmothers had strokes, one came to live with her and Hartley. At the grandmother's funeral, Hartley had a stroke.
Jones was 30, and spent the next 15 years caring for him before his death.
"There were so many people that I spent time helping care for that I couldn't make time for myself much until recent years," Jones says. "I understood from experience that caregiving becomes even harder when the person develops psychiatric problems, and I stayed involved with the Friends of Psychiatry group at Emory so I know what they are researching and working toward. You could say that my planned gift was a no brainer!"
Her Emory connections grew in value over the years as she balanced caregiving with work in local politics.
"When my husband had a stroke, I had the backup of the whole Emory medical community and I took that very seriously," she says. "We had personal relationships with them and great insurance from Emory that kept me from panicking. After my family members died, I have had several close friends who also suffered strokes and brain tumors, and all were treated at Emory. I am trying very much to retire from caregiving, but it's been my life, and it brought out empathy and appreciation that inspired my planned gift."