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FAMILY STEEPED IN PHILANTHROPY GIVES $1.2 MILLION TO RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Constance Stafford Constantine notes that giving away wealth has been second nature to her family for generations. She, her brother, husband and brother-in-law are donating $1.2 million to Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

The gift heralds today's opening of the institute's $24 million building on the downtown Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

But unlike her maternal grandmother, Helen Woodward Rivas, the Jell-O heiress from Le Roy whose quiet $3 million donation established the world-renowned Buffalo laboratory 49 years ago, Connie Constantine says she believes in making her generosity public as a way of prodding others to follow suit.

After giving a considerable sum years ago to add a wing to Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital, Helen Rivas was mortified to see her name etched in the cornerstone, Constantine recalled. The lettering was hastily removed.

The 1956 donation that started the Medical Foundation of Buffalo, Hauptman-Woodward's predecessor, also was made without fanfare. When the physician who treated her thyroid condition told Rivas he wanted to spend more time researching the illness, she paid for construction of the High Street building that has been the foundation's home since 1960. She also started an endowment to attract scientists.

The quiet giving actually started with Constantine's great-grandmother, Cora Woodward, whose husband, Orator, founded Jell-O. And the generosity continued under Constantine's mother. Constance Wilmsen Stafford supported many nonprofit organizations, including Hauptman-Woodward, Buffalo General Hospital and Albright-Knox Art Gallery. She and her husband, Walter F. Stafford Jr., helped create the world's largest James Joyce literary collection at the University at Buffalo.

Constantine, on the other hand, thinks it is wise nowadays to attach your name to a contribution.

"I believe that fully 50 percent of any gift is allowing your name to be used for peer pressure," said Constantine, 50, who soon will step down from the Hauptman-Woodward board after serving as a director since 1982. She was chairwoman from 1996 to 2000.

The combined gift from Constantine; her brother, Walter F. Stafford III; her husband, Walter E. Constantine Jr.; his brother, William J. Constantine; and the Constance Stafford Charitable Trust, went to Hauptman-Woodward's "Cures Begin Here" capital campaign, launched in 2002. Connie Constantine is general chairwoman, with Richard W. Shaughnessy and Elizabeth C. Marks as co-chairmen.

More than $25.7 million has been raised to date for the striking 73,000-square-foot building at 700 Ellicott St. and to recruit 14 scientists from outside the area to help identify genetic factors in diseases. More money will be raised to increase the institute's endowment, fund new research, buy special lab equipment and support the new structural biology department.

For her family's latest contribution, Constantine has a particular use in mind: "I like the idea of funding young scientists -- funding the future."

She expects to pass on the philanthropic tradition to her son, Walter E. "Ted" Constantine III, 29, who teaches science at a school for dyslexic boys in Massachusetts; and daughters Holly, 26, who is pursuing a master's degree in urban planning and design at UB, and Emily, 22, who is working as a marine technician on an oceanographic research mission in Antarctica.

They might consider adopting their mother's carrot-and-stick approach, which seems to be working. The Hauptman-Woodward drive has raised $10 million from Western New York foundations, corporations and individuals, as well as a $14 million construction grant from the state and $2 million in federal appropriations.

e-mail: tbuckham@buffnews.com

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