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Donor Profile: Emily Bourne Grigsby

Imagine a painting rich in color and diverse in style, and you have a painting representative of Emily Bourne Grigsby’s remarkable life. Driven by an insatiable curiosity and a thirst for new experiences, Emily has an unmatched zest for living, and when it comes to Shepherd Center, giving.

Born in 1922 in Lexington, Ky., Emily credits her parents, whom she describes as highly investigative, with her inquisitive mind and love of learning. She also credits her parents, both hampered by ill health, with inspiring her to live a full life.

And live fully she has. After marrying Paul Grigsby in 1942 and moving to San Francisco, Calif., Emily, at age 20, became the youngest chorus member of the San Francisco Opera Company. A gifted soprano, Emily was tremendously disappointed that Atlanta, Ga., where she and Paul moved in 1945, did not have an opera.

She quickly found another passion, however. For more than 12 years, Emily modeled glamorous clothing for Rich’s Department Store and other fashion houses. She also learned to fly her husband’s twin-engine plane. With more than 700 flying hours, Emily says: “Flying gave me a hunger for freedom and independence. I became more confident.”

This confidence served Emily well as she earned a master’s degree in city planning from Georgia Tech in 1975 and later, at age 60, a law degree from Woodrow Wilson College of Law. After passing the Georgia Bar, Emily practiced as an arbitrator and mediator.

Of all her passions, one of Emily’s favorites is art, and it is through her artwork that she graciously gives to Shepherd Center. A painter for more than 30 years, Emily has had 16 one-person art shows and has filled her various homes through the years with her paintings that range from traditional to modern. In 2008, Emily’s husband suggested that she “thin out” some of her collection – something Emily was honored to do when, during a 2008 tour of Shepherd, co-founder Alana Shepherd expressed an interest in hanging Emily’s paintings in the hospital.

Vibrant in color, Emily’s paintings adorn the walls of Shepherd’s Irene and George Woodruff Family Residence Center and offer patients and families a “visual respite” from their challenges. “I wanted to brighten the walls and the lives of people at Shepherd Center,” Emily says.

Ty Tippett, senior director of planned gifts for Shepherd Center Foundation, believes Emily has succeeded. “Emily’s art connects with our patients and their families on an almost spiritual level,” Ty says. “Her paintings enhance the sense of hope and beauty that permeates Shepherd.”

Shepherd Center gives Emily a sense of hope, as well. In addition to her interest in Shepherd’s Animal Assisted Therapy Program, Emily appreciates Shepherd’s innovation and courage in trying new treatments. A member of the Bridge Builders Society, Emily has named Shepherd Center Foundation as a beneficiary in her estate planning. By doing so, she hopes to ensure that Shepherd can continue to make a positive difference in the lives of patients and their families.

“It makes me feel good to be able to support Shepherd’s endeavors,” Emily says. “America is so wonderful, and it’s such a privilege to live here. We need to give back if we can.”

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.