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The Lifeblood of the Community: Dr. Burnett Rawson

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In the photograph above, Dr. Rawson is sitting with Marty Reid and Grace Greene from the Vermont Department of Libraries. Standing are Holly Hall, the Director of the Deborah Rawson Library and Victoria Tibbits, former Westford Public Library Director.

Sometimes life events alter our hopes and dreams—such is the story of Dr. Burnett Rawson, a native of Underhill, Vermont. He and his wife lost their daughter in 1992. To honor her love of learning, they made a generous donation that became the lead gift for the Deborah Rawson Memorial Library in Jericho. Watch this 5-minute video that highlights a Toy Hacking class during the summer of 2014 and is a wonderful tribute Dr. Rawson's passionate support of libraries.

At the library’s dedication in 1998, Dr. Rawson said, "...from now on, I want you all to enjoy [the library]. I want you to use it. I want you to learn from it. I want you to unlearn from it, because there are a lot of problems out there."

After his wife died in 2004, Dr. Rawson worked with a philanthropic advisor at the Vermont Community Foundation to establish the Jessie S. Rawson Charitable Remainder Trust, which supports the library’s operations.

His generosity did not stop with one library. He also set up two Charitable Gift Annuities (CGAs) that support the Vermont State Library Foundation’s Winnie Bell Learned Fund and a third CGA that supports the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

Young at heart, in 2013 he celebrated his 100th birthday with almost 100 relatives and friends at the Jericho library dedicated to his daughter. “Twenty years ago people predicted that technology would make libraries obsolete, but it has actually benefited them,” he said. “They now provide access to even more resources.” 

Dr. Rawson considered libraries to be the lifeblood of the community, and he remained actively involved in his philanthropy until he passed away at nearly 101 years of age in May of 2014. His generous, full life was and is an inspiration to many, and the Community Foundation is honored to have been a part of "his commitment to doing whatever he could to make the world just a little better and a little more just."