(This article was originally published in The Columbian.)
Anyone living in the greater Vancouver area for any amount of time has likely heard of the Lynch family and their numerous contributions to the community.
Ed and Dollie have given their support to an array of causes over the years, most notably to the Fort Vancouver National Trust, Identity Clark County, Columbia Springs Foundation, Construction Education Foundation for Oregon State University, Vancouver Methodist Foundation, Northwest House of Theological Studies, and the Southwest Washington Medical Center Foundation.
Although they gave generously in their later years, Ed and Dollie Lynch, like many who have had firsthand experience with the Great Depression, came from humble beginnings.
Edward Lynch was born Nov. 14, 1920, and was drawn to engineering from an early age. In World War II he worked as a foreman on the assembly line for fighter planes. After his WWII service in the Navy he completed his civil engineering degree at Stanford University. Upon graduation, he enjoyed a successful career in 1957 with Kiewit Pacific in Vancouver, and called the Pacific Northwest his home for the remainder of his life. Ed was a lover of books, history, traveling, Colonial Williamsburg and the Founding Fathers.
Ed met Virginialee “Dollie” Lynch when she was a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she was in the same sorority as Ed’s sister.
She and Ed married, and she completed school while he served in the war. She became a school teacher for two years, and then a homemaker after Ed finished his Engineering degree.
After moving to Vancouver, those who got to know Dollie called her a “spark,” a “beautiful butterfly” and a “cheerleader” for her community. According to former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, “Everybody turned to her; everybody wanted to talk to her.”
Their Philanthropic Mission
In 1985, Ed retired as president of Kiewit Pacific and he and Dollie launched a second career of philanthropy. They were honored multiple times over the years for their generosity. In 2006, they were honored as Washington Generals, a statewide honor. In 1992, they were honored as Clark County’s First Citizens by the Community Foundation, and in 2011, Ed Lynch was honored with the Vollum Award for Lifetime Philanthropic Achievement, the top such award in the Portland-Vancouver area.
In 2012, Ed and Dollie gave the first $2 million to kick off the Academy preservation project.
In a National Trust news release announcing his gift, Ed said “Over the years, I have been privileged to support many important efforts in our community. However, in my view, there is no more important undertaking than the acquisition and preservation of Providence Academy.”
The brick structure was designed and built in 1873 by Mother Joseph, 17 years after a small group of the Sisters of Providence arrived in Vancouver from Montreal, Canada. It served as a school until 1966.
There were other seven-figure gifts given by Ed and Dollie over the years, including money for a therapy garden at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center that bears Dollie Lynch’s name.
Of all their donations, Ed said that those given to their church (First United Methodist) and to children’s causes were the closest to Dollie’s heart. These causes included the I Have a Dream Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club, among others.
Ed and Dollie not only contributed to the community financially, but also freely gave their time; whether setting up folding chairs before an event or helping out in the kitchen at First United Methodist Church, Ed and Dollie gave of themselves in many capacities.
In the Vancouver/SW Washington Business Journal interview Ed gave in 2012, just 2 ½ years before his death, he summed up his philanthropy by saying “I give because it is the right thing to do.”
Prestige Development’s upcoming Our Heroes Place apartments on E Mill Plain Blvd pay homage to all that Ed and Dollie did for Vancouver as well as everybody whose lives they touched. CEO and President Elie Kassab alongside his wife, Nayla, were close friends of the duo for many years. Of the project, Kassab says, “Ed and Dollie are two of our community’s heroes. We love them dearly and are naming the two buildings of Our Heroes Place after each of them individually.”