Dr. Margaret S. Burns ’61 “Pays it Back and Pays it Forward” with a Gift in Her Will

Photo of Dr. Margaret S. Burns
Dr. Margaret S. Burns ’61

Dr. Margaret S. Burns ’61 — retired university professor, women’s philanthropy advocate, and published poet — waxes a little philosophic when explaining why she and her husband, Dr. Roy W. Bellhorn, have included a bequest in their wills to Allegheny College.

“We have all been warmed by fires we did not set,” says Maggie. She added that she came from a tiny Pennsylvania town and is grateful to Allegheny for changing her view of the world in addition to preparing her for further education, including at Yale.

Maggie and Roy chose a bequest because it “allows us to make a substantial gift even though our cash flow wouldn’t allow for it.” Their “fire-setting” gift is unrestricted; they both worked in eye disease research and appreciate the value of gifts without restriction.

As a woman philanthropist, Maggie is currently focusing her efforts in and around Winters, California, the small Yolo County town 30 miles west of Sacramento where she lives. She is a founding member and former board president of the Yolo Community Foundation, which raises funds for local nonprofits and awards scholarships to youths who engage in community service. She and Roy previously established a fund to help Winters High School graduates further their education, and they are looking into creating an endowment for the Winters school system that would support technology, field trips, and other types of educational enrichment.

Maggie grew up in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles from Allegheny’s home of Meadville. Allegheny was the only school to which she applied, as she planned to be a pre-med major and at the time Allegheny had a 97 percent acceptance rate for its students into medical school. She earned a B.S. degree in chemistry in 1961 and went straight to Yale for her master’s degree. She then earned a Ph.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in 1971.

“Allegheny provided a rich educational environment and superb professors,” Maggie says. “I was well-prepared for graduate school and had no problem keeping up with classmates who attended larger undergraduate programs.”

She worked as a professor of ophthalmology and biochemistry at Albert Einstein College and then the University of California, Davis Medical Center. As a biomedical researcher, Maggie was funded by the National Institutes of Health for 25 years. She wrote many research papers and spoke internationally.

Roy Bellhorn is a retired professor of veterinary medicine at UC Davis who is also widely published as a researcher.

Maggie has won several awards for her poetry and has been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize for writers published by small presses. She currently works as a features reporter for the local weekly newspaper in her home town of Winters, California.

Maggie and Roy belong to the William Bentley Legacy Society for those who have made a planned gift to Allegheny, and Maggie has earned the Gold Citation from the College “in recognition and appreciation of honor reflected upon the College by virtue of professional or volunteer activities.”

Maggie encourages alumni to create warming fires for future students by making gifts of gratitude to Allegheny.

“Pay it back and pay it forward,” she says. “These are the things that make our lives.”

—Reprinted from The Allegheny Planner, Spring 2015


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