Grosse Pointe Farms retiree donates millions to health care, animal causes

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

A retired Grosse Pointe Farms investment banker has donated $2 million to expand the Infectious Disease Research Program at Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit. 

It's the latest in a long list of donations to the hospital and animal charities by Thomas Mackey, 86, who never married, has no children and enjoys sharing his wealth with worthy causes. 

Mackey said he became aware of the importance of Ascension's infectious disease doctors after contracting a surgery-related infection that was treated at the hospital. 

Thomas Mackey's donation to the Infectious Disease and Research Program at Ascension St. John comes as a pandemic rages across the world. He says, though, his first passion is caring for animals. He's donated money to build Michigan Humane's Mackey Center for Animal Care in Detroit and Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society's Thomas A. Mackey Animal Adoption Center in Harper Woods.

The Thomas Mackey Center for Infectious Disease Research, slated to open in late March, will conduct research to develop enhanced diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive strategies to combat serious infectious diseases.  

"It took me a year or two to correct, and I still take heavy antibiotics," he said of the infection. "When they said they ... wanted to develop a whole disease fighting group, I said that's something I would like to support." 

The center will be located adjacent to the clinical research area in the Mack Office Building on the hospital campus. The expanded space also will increase opportunities for training infectious disease doctors and scientists, hospital officials said. 

Dr. Louis Saravolatz, chair of the Department of Medicine for Ascension St. John and a

professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, said the hospital had a need to enhance its infectious disease research efforts, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year. 

“Mr. Mackey’s extremely generous support comes at a time when our needs in infectious disease care and research are greater than ever,” Saravolatz said in a news release.

“Mr. Mackey’s gift is greatly appreciated by the Department of Medicine and will have an impact in our community for many years to come.”

The clinical research area will provide a home for clinical studies involving new therapeutics and vaccines against infectious diseases, including COVID-19. It also will  expand the hospital's infectious diseases laboratory and allow for the development of new testing methodologies. 

Saravolatz said the lab has been involved in research for years in areas such as staphylococcal disease and molecular testing, but the pandemic has pushed them in a new direction.

“We’ll continue working in the other areas plus expand with COVID research in this new center,” he said. 

Mackey previously donated $1 million to Ascension St. John Hospital for a new hybrid cardiac catheterization laboratory, after he said doctors saved his life from a heart attack.

The retired investment banker was born in Highland Park before moving to Detroit's Indian Village and then Grosse Pointe Farms during his childhood. He's remained in Grosse Pointe Farms, where he lives a "stone's throw" from the hospital with his rescue dog, Scruffy.

Mackey founded the Thomas A. Mackey Foundation to fund his charitable causes and said while he's been "very fortunate" to be able to give to the hospital, his first passion is caring for animals.  

He's donated more than $3 million dollars to Michigan Humane, formerly the Michigan Humane Society, over the years, including $1 million to build the the Mackey Center for Animal Care, a veterinary hospital on Chrysler Drive in Detroit. 

Mackey also donated funds to the Grosse Pointe  Animal Adoption Society to create the Thomas A. Mackey Animal Adoption Center in Harper Woods. 

"Me and Scruffy are partners," Mackey said. "Hopefully I'll leave the world a little better than I came into it."

Twitter: @kbouffardDN