Lanier leaves lasting legacy, embodiment of St. Vincent’s mission

Lanier leaves lasting legacy, embodiment of St. Vincent’s mission
Retiring St. Vincent’s Foundation President Jane Lanier with her successor Virginia Hall

Throughout her long career in fundraising, there are two words St. Vincent’s Foundation President Jane Lanier never allows to slip from her lips – contribution and donation.

“Gift is the right word,” she insists. “Philanthropy is connecting people’s hearts and treasures. It’s someone’s heart and the treasure they have that they want to share with someone else. Philanthropy has to be meaningful. A gift is doing something bigger. A gift changes somebody’s life or saves their life. In giving a gift, donors are blessed, and it reflects back,” she said.

Lanier, an Ortega Forest resident, intends to retire from her role as St. Vincent’s top fundraiser on July 12. Well known as an expert in her field within the Jacksonville community and beyond, she has served St. Vincent’s Foundation and the hospital’s mission since 1999. During that period she has raised more than $150 million to fund the hospital’s ministries, which has not only allowed a significant expansion of the health system, but also has enabled the hospital to provide top-shelf care to its patients and provide free medical care and support to much of the underserved in Northeast Florida.  

“It’s the care and caring. That’s what sets us apart. Total strangers are taking care of you at the most vulnerable time of your life. No matter what you are in for, what you really want to know is that they are good clinically, and that they really care about you. That’s where all the dollars translate – into how we provide that care and caring,” she said.

With CEO and President Tom VanOsdol at the helm of St. Vincent’s HealthCare and Foundation Vice President Virginia Hall, Lanier’s handpicked successor, ready to take the reins of the Foundation, Lanier said she feels comfortable heading into the next chapter of her life. 

“I’m choosing to retire now because everything is good. Things are great at St. Vincent’s and in my family’s life. Now is the time to pass things along while everything is great,” said the mother of two and grandmother of five. “I’m not sure if I will ever really be retired. I expect to always do something to help St. Vincent’s and our community. I am so blessed because I didn’t plan any of this,” she said referring to heaven-sent guidance she has received over the years from her strong faith.

Hall is a fourth-generation Clay County native whom Lanier first encouraged to run St. Vincent’s Clay County Capital Campaign and then introduced Hall to the idea of working at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Riverside as a manager in the Mission Department and later in the Strategy Department, which is concerned with community engagement.

Hall could not ask for a better mentor. A Bishop Kenny graduate, Lanier graduated from Georgia State University where she holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. A Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) since 1997, she has served as president of the Ascension Health Council on Philanthropy, the national organization the Ascension Health Foundations and as president of the First Coast Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals as well as on the boards of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, the Meninak Club of Jacksonville and others. A member of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, where she serves as a Eucharistic minister and religious education teacher, she is a recipient of the Diocesan Catholic Business Women’s Award and a Regional Hospitaller of the Order of Malta, Federal Association. 

Lanier said she never imagined how far she would come when she began her career as a fifth grade teacher at Venetia Elementary and later as a preschool and kindergarten teacher at St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School. She began working in nonprofits in 1991 as the director of the YWCA children’s programs in Jacksonville, where she developed the first homeless preschool-daycare program in the city. 

A year later, she was tapped to be CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities, serving from 1992 to 1999, and overseeing the relocation and construction of a new Ronald McDonald House facility adjacent to Nemours Children’s Care in San Marco. 

“I never planned any of this in my career. I’m just so blessed by my faith; God directed everything. Anything that has ever really been accomplished is because of Him and not because of me,” she declared. 

Sister DeSales Wisniewski and Bob Shircliff have been the greatest influences in her philanthropic work, she said. It was Shircliff, then St. Vincent’s board chair and the greatest philanthropist she has ever known, who “invited” her to head the foundation. “Bob said it was a bigger picture here. We’re going to help everybody from the unborn ‘til natural death.”

In her early days at the foundation, when St. Vincent’s had only one mobile outreach van – a proverbial doctor’s office on wheels – to bring medical care to children and families in the community, DeSales commissioned Lanier to get more. “Sister DeSales looked at me and said, ‘Jane, I want a fleet of these. We can never have too many, because there is so much care that is needed,” she said, adding she worked diligently to form partnerships with the Duval County Public School Board, The United Way, the Jacksonville Public Health Department, The PLAYERS, and Daily’s to provide more mobile medical care for children throughout the five-county area. “We have dozens and dozens of people that support our outreach, and we are the only hospital that does it,” she said.

Lanier’s success is due to her genuine love of people, her attention to detail, and her genuine care for each donor and gratitude for the gifts they give, said Jim Towler, director of donor services at St. Vincent’s. “She really makes sure we handle the gifts in a special way because each donor is special,” he said, noting she often brings hot soup to donors when they are ill and never forgets a birthday. She also funds swim lessons for her staff and their children and will provide free advice on fundraising and nonprofit management to other nonprofits if they desire.

“She lives her gratitude. It’s not just words, it’s actions that she lives, every day,” Towler said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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