News Release: Record Donation For Memorial Fund

26 September 2009

The Heisley Family Foundation, based in Chicago, has pledged to donate $2.5 million for the Education Center at The Wall, the largest individual or family donation the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has ever received and the largest individual donation pledged so far to the Education Center.

“The Heisley family, like many American families, was affected by the Vietnam War,” said Jan C. Scruggs, founder and president of the Memorial Fund. “The Memorial Fund is pleased and grateful that the Heisleys have decided to honor their loved ones who served in Vietnam by helping us build the Education Center.”

The Education Center at The Wall is a learning facility that is being built underground on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Nearly $25 million has been raised to build it so far, including the lead gift of $10 million from Time Warner. It is estimated that the Center will cost $85 million to build.

The Heisley Family Foundation gift was announced privately at a small gathering of supporters at the New York Stock Exchange last week.

“This is one of the most exciting projects we have ever been associated with,” said Judy Heisley Bishop, president of the Heisley Family Foundation. “My family was deeply touched by the Vietnam War. My uncle, Joseph Heisley, served in Vietnam. My father’s best friend, Rocky Versace, was killed while he was a prisoner of war and received The Medal of Honor posthumously.

“My family hopes to ensure that all future generations hear these stories,” she added. “We believe the Education Center will have a profound impact on the millions of people visiting the National Mall every year, and we are proud to support it.”

Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), honorary chairman of the campaign to build the Education Center, said, “It is important to have great partners in this project, such as the Heisleys. They are exhibiting what this project is about, honoring and remembering their loved ones and preserving their memories for future generations.”

The Memorial Fund launched a National Call for Photos last week to gather pictures of the more than 58,000 individuals whose names are on The Wall. These photos will be used for an exhibit that will be the centerpiece of the Education Center: a wall of photos of those whose names are on The Wall, with their photos being shown on their birthdays in the Education Center and will be displayed year round on the VVMF Web site.

Other exhibits will include a selection of the over 100,000 items that have been left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a timeline of key military events of the Vietnam War and a history of The Wall. The Center will celebrate the values embodied by all of America’s service members—loyalty, duty, respect, service, honor, integrity and courage—and an exit exhibit will show images of those who served in all of America’s conflicts, from the Revolutionary War to Iraq.

Time Warner provided the lead gift of $10 million in 2006. Support has also been provided by a diverse group of businesses, organizations, foundations and individuals.

“We are pleased to have the support of the Heisley Family Foundation,” said Peter M. Holt, chairman of the campaign to build the Education Center. “We look forward to working with them to teach future generations about the sacrifices made by those who served during the Vietnam War.”

Family patriarch Michael Heisley and his wife Agnes, who have five children, both grew up in Alexandria, Virginia and were friends with Humbert Rocque “Rocky” Versace, an Army captain who served in Vietnam and was listed as missing in action in 1963. Versace is remembered on Panel 1E, Row 33 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Heisley family was active in creating the Captain Rocky Versace Plaza and Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Alexandria, Va., which was built to honor Versace and the 61 Alexandrians who sacrificed their lives during service in the Vietnam War.

The Heisley Family Foundation has given funds over the years to support educational programs and schools, cultural projects and children's health care. The Foundation has been a long-time dedicated supporter of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
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