Doris Buffett to speak at midcoast gala

Posted June 24, 2010, at 10:25 p.m.
Doris Buffett in the Oval Room at Montpelier, The General Henry Knox Museum in Thomaston. (Photo courtesy of Linda Stevenson)
Doris Buffett in the Oval Room at Montpelier, The General Henry Knox Museum in Thomaston. (Photo courtesy of Linda Stevenson)

THOMASTON, Maine — Philanthropist Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, will be the speaker at the General Henry Knox Museum’s fifth annual gala on July 29, museum staff announced Thursday.

Doris Buffett donated $100,000 to the museum in 2002, which helped pay for improvements to the local landmark that pays tribute to the nation’s first secretary of war.

Buffett will attend the gala at the Strand Theatre, where she will sign copies of her new biography before being interviewed by Maine journalist Rob Caldwell on stage. After the interview, Buffett will take part in a question-and-answer session.

“It is exciting because it is a celebration of a woman who has done a lot for people all over the world,” said Ellen Dyer, the museum’s executive director. “She has done a lot for people in midcoast Maine.”

Dyer recalled that a few weeks after Buffett attended a celebration at the museum in 2002, she called the museum with an offer.

“She decided there was a lot of potential here that wasn’t being tapped,” Dyer said.

Buffett’s offer involved a $100,000 challenge — she would donate that much if the museum could raise the same amount.

“She doesn’t believe in handouts, so she wasn’t going to give us money unless she felt she would make a difference to the organization and that the museum would survive without her,” Dyer said.

The challenge helped the museum raise $200,000, which helped among other things preserve some rooms and artifacts and create an electronic database of the museum’s collections.

Dyer hopes Buffett’s presence at the upcoming gala will help strengthen the museum again.

“We’re hoping her appearance is going to help us raise money and help raise our profile,” she said. “Honestly, this has turned into a celebration of her philanthropic efforts. There has been a lot of community excitement and support since we started announcing it.”

The annual gala is the museum’s biggest fundraiser. This year, Dyer said she expects to fill the Rockland theater with 350 people.

For special patrons, a dinner with Buffett will follow.

Buffett, who is from Omaha, Neb., owns a home in Rockport. Since she launched her family’s philanthropy firm, the Sunshine Lady Foundation Inc., in 1996, it has awarded more than $100 million in grants to organizations across the country, according to the foundation website. Her brother Warren, the well-known investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is perennially listed among the wealthiest Americans.

The gala will be 6 p.m. Thursday, July 29. Tickets are $35. For information, call 354-0858.

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