January 9, 2006: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Obituaries: Seattle Post Intelligencer : Nepal RPCV Suzanne Cluett dies in Washington State

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: January 9, 2006: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Obituaries: Seattle Post Intelligencer : Nepal RPCV Suzanne Cluett dies in Washington State

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Nepal RPCV Suzanne Cluett dies in Washington State

Nepal RPCV Suzanne Cluett dies in Washington State

Starting as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal during the mid-1960s, she had long been devoted to working with women internationally on issues of health, education and empowerment. "That's where we met," said her husband, Dr. Chris Cluett, a scientist who works at the Seattle office of Battelle. Chris Cluett also served in Nepal during the first years of the Peace Corps. Both stayed in Nepal for an additional three years to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Nepal RPCV Suzanne Cluett dies in Washington State

Suzanne Cluett: 1942-2006: Her mission started with the Peace Corps
Cluett fought for women's rights, health, and helped give birth to the Gates Foundation

By TOM PAULSON
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

A passionate advocate for women's rights and health and the first non-family employee of what would eventually become the world's largest philanthropy -- the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- has died.

Suzanne Cluett, 63, who was also the first employee at PATH, the Seattle organization that has launched and managed many of the Gates Foundation's most ambitious global health projects, died Tuesday afternoon from breast cancer that had spread to her brain.
Cluett and Gates
Family photo
Suzanne Cluett and Bill Gates Sr. were welcomed in October 1999 with flower leis and kata scarves to Junbasi, Nepal.

"Suzanne had strong convictions, but she was also a very sensitive person, very accepting of people," said Bill Gates Sr., who in 1995 hired the woman he called "the neighbor lady," Cluett, to work with him in the basement of his Laurelhurst home on assignment from his billionaire son to figure out how best to give away money.

The Gates Foundation, at least as it is known today, didn't yet exist. Bill and Melinda Gates had donated to various causes, but they had asked Bill Gates Sr. to help focus on creating a much larger philanthropy with a more targeted, strategic mission.

Cluett, born in Enumclaw, was already on a mission. Starting as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal during the mid-1960s, she had long been devoted to working with women internationally on issues of health, education and empowerment.

"That's where we met," said her husband, Dr. Chris Cluett, a scientist who works at the Seattle office of Battelle. Chris Cluett also served in Nepal during the first years of the Peace Corps. Both stayed in Nepal for an additional three years to work for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

In 1968, the Cluetts returned to Seattle and lived near Gates Sr. and his wife. Both families have been active supporters of Planned Parenthood, and they sometimes saw one another at those events. But Gates said he only vaguely knew the Cluetts and came to know Suzanne well only later when they worked together to give birth to the Gates Foundation.

"At that point, we saw a lot of each other every day," Gates said. "I was very fond of her. We operated for many years completely in parallel."

Dr. Gordon Perkin, one of the founders of PATH, the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, and former director for global health at the Gates Foundation, also worked closely with Suzanne during her 16 years as administrative vice president for PATH.

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"She made things happen but never wanted any recognition for it," Perkin said.

Cluett had profound influence on those around her, he said, because she was both immensely savvy about people while fiercely motivated by a desire to direct everyone toward a noble goal.

It's perhaps impossible to measure how much Cluett, as a trusted confidante to Gates Sr. and, officially, as associate director of global health strategies for the philanthropy, might have helped direct the Gates Foundation toward what is today already creating revolutionary improvements in many previously neglected areas of international health.

But she was there at the beginning, and, as Perkin said, "anyone who knew her knew just how influential Suzanne could be."

Cluett was honored at an October event at which the Gates Foundation donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood of Western Washington to establish the Suzanne Cluett International Family Planning Endowment. The family-planning organization matched this with another $1 million, with perhaps more to come.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by son Nate and his wife, Vivian, of Seattle; and son Jonathan, of Santa Monica, Calif.

The family held a private gathering followed by an open house at the Cluett residence on Sunday. Contributions can be made to Suzanne's Fund, c/o Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, 2001 E. Madison St., Seattle, WA 98122; or by visiting http://suzannesfund.org.





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Story Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Nepal; Obituaries

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