How one woman’s generosity is making real global change

There are many ways to contribute to Perkins and each way has an impact on our community. This is the story of the late Olive Macdougall and ways her contributions are making a global impact.

animated image of a seed sprouting from the ground.

Through the generosity of donors, Perkins’ many programs have been able to flourish and help hundreds of thousands of families and children with disabilities worldwide. Some of these donations are public, while others are not, yet we are all connected by the same mission: to create a world where everyone belongs. The late Olive Macdougall understood and celebrated this through her actions, by making an incredibly generous gift in excess of six million dollars to date. Now, we share her story.

A journey to Perkins

Raised in Chatham MA, Olive Macdougall moved to Haverhill when she married, and lived there until her passing in 2021. She worked as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital and was part of the teaching faculty for the nursing school there for many years. She had an interest in education and assisting people with disabilities.

Olive was a truly remarkable person. Throughout her life she helped others without their knowledge. She sincerely believed in the education of teachers and its multiplying effect.

Dick Carlson, former Perkins Trustee and longtime friend to Olive

Olive was known for asking, “how can I help,” whenever she learned of a need. When her husband John S. Macdougall Jr. was alive, he served as a Perkins Corporator from 1993 until 2002. After his passing, Olive picked up where he left off serving as a Perkins Corporator in 2003. 

John began his career in 1949 at a law firm in Boston and later took over a law practice in Haverhill. John was born and lived in Haverhill his entire life and was a well respected probate court judge in the counties of Middlesex, Duke and Nantucket.

Then in 1968, he married the love of his life, Olive R. Macdougall. They had no children together, but their passion for helping others led them along their most authentic fulfilling path.

A Perkins supporter for decades

As a member of the Corporation, Olive volunteered her time and leadership experience to Perkins. Between her and her husband, the Macdougall family served in this role for nearly 30 years. Throughout her time in volunteer leadership at Perkins, Olive quietly made her mark on campus in different ways. 

In 2005, she established the John S. Macdougall, Jr. and Olive R. Macdougall Teacher Training Fund, which provides highly specialized teacher training, both in person and online courses. 

This transformational gift allowed Perkins to become one of the leading online sources of education and networking for teachers, professionals, and parents supporting children with visual impairments and multiple disabilities. The online resource makes equal opportunity education universally accessible. 

Here’s an example of how the Macdougall-funded online training programs changed the way one teacher approaches her work every day:

Each part of this workshop has put ideas into my head on a daily basis. I find myself reflecting on aspects of the readings, lecture, as well as discussion forum topics during daily activities in my classroom.

Tara, a Perkins teacher

In addition to her forethought on how important it is to train the educators of tomorrow, Olive was also committed to Perkins Watertown campus. Today, you can find John’s name on the bridge at Perkins Pond, as Olive also helped to complete the pond restoration in 2010. Our students continue to enjoy the serenity of this central campus space and it is also being used by teachers for science classes.

When Olive saw photos of the bridge she said, “It looks really sturdy and reliable…just like John.”

Fountain in pond with setting sun in background

Preserving the future of a global teacher training program

Olive’s largest commitment to Perkins came after her passing, in the form of an endowed gift to ensure Perkins’ International Educational Leadership Program will continue in perpetuity. Because of her forethought and commitment to this program, participants will continue to travel from across the globe each year, to take part in a nine month immersive education experience on the Perkins campus. 

Utilizing the Perkins campus, educators, and programs, these international scholars gain the expertise they need to improve the education of children with complex disabilities in their home countries. It is because of Olive’s generous gifts, that hundreds of highly-trained international teachers can expand educational opportunities for children with visual impairment and multiple disabilities wherever they work.

Through this program, graduates like Nyendo can build truly inclusive educational opportunities for children in Bhutan or, like Nehuen, can advocate for accessible initiatives in their local municipalities in Argentina. The Educational Leadership Program has existed for more than 100 years, and now with Olive’s thoughtful endowment of over six million dollars, it will sustain for at least 100 more.

With generous support from donors like Olive and John, Perkins is one step closer to creating a world where everyone belongs.

Group photo of international scholars containing 7 women and 1 man. Most are dressed in traditional clothes from their home country and pose indoors in an open hallway.

How 8 passionate scholars lead global change for kids with disabilities

animated image of a seed sprouting from the ground.

How vision loss inspired a woman to invest in the futures of students

Karen, a young girl, stand next to a planter with three-quarters filled with soil. Her teach stand behind her, holding her hands, guiding her to grab a handful of soil.

How Karen went from isolated to included

Leave a legacy.

Learn more about leaving Perkins in your will.