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The Worcester Art Museum announced Sunday that it has received a $10 million donation from the C. Jean & Myles McDonough Charitable Foundation — the largest gift of its kind in the museum’s history.

The donation, intended to strengthen WAM’s existing operations and endowments while fostering its future ambitions, comes less than four years after the Foundation’s $4 million endowment of the museum’s directorship, consequently named for the McDonoughs. And for Jean McDonough, it marks the most sizable show of support yet for an institution she’s championed throughout her life. “The Worcester Art Museum is a tremendous resource for culture and education for people throughout New England, and an institution greatly deserving all of our support,” said Neil McDonough, Jean McDonough’s son, in a statement.

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“My mother hopes [her gift] will both support today’s operational needs of the museum as well as help endow its future,” he continued by phone. “And even more importantly, it may incite others to support WAM or other cultural institutions in our community.”

Jean McDonough
Jean McDonoughNorm Eggert Photography

After moving to Worcester in 1960, Jean and her late husband Myles McDonough — founder of pressure-sensitive adhesives manufacturer FLEXcon — made their mark as devoted patrons of the city’s educational and cultural organizations.

At the time, Worcester was built on manufacturing wealth; as the economy shifted, support for the arts dwindled, and the momentum of local museums threatened to stall. Jean’s continued dedication to the Worcester Art Museum throughout those decades — first as a member and docent, then as a member of its Board of Trustees — is considered by Matthias Waschek, the museum’s C. Jean and Myles McDonough Director, to have played a key role in ensuring its survival. More recently, amid the much-heralded Worcester Renaissance, the Worcester Art Museum has re-emerged as a cultural center; Waschek referred to the McDonoughs as “pioneers in our renaissance” who’ve helped the museum move forward with its mission.

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“Jean is a philanthropist extraordinaire,” said Waschek. “She cares deeply about the Worcester Art Museum and what we can do for the city, but she also cares deeply for Worcester.”


Isaac Feldberg can be reached at isaac.feldberg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @isaacfeldberg.