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Delaware History Makers holds 12th annual award

Gerret and Tatiana Copeland

Gerret and Tatiana Copeland

Personal connections are key to the philanthropy of Gerret and Tatiana Copeland.

“Everything we did reflected our background and interests,” Gerret Copeland said Tuesday, after sharing with his wife the Delaware Historical Society’s 12th annual Delaware History Makers Award.

Luckily for Delaware, the region and the nation, they have diverse backgrounds and interests.

Gerret is from the du Pont family. His acceptance speech quoted his grandfather on how “with privilege comes responsibility” and his father on making the world “a little better place than when you came in.”

Tatiana brings worldly views: Russian parents, German birth and childhood in Denmark and Argentina.

“This country gave me every opportunity to do something,” she said. “I don’t think there’s another country in the world that would do that.”

Hence her support of the replica of the Kalmar Nyckel, which brought Scandinavian immigrants to Delaware.

Their award reflects their “incredible impact on all the pillars of our community,” said David Young, the society’s executive director. The society cites “countless organizations, including Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art, Brandywine Valley SPCA, Canine Partners for Life, Christiana Care Health System, Delaware Art Museum, Delaware Center for Horticulture, Delaware College of Art and Design, Delaware Historical Society, Delaware Humane Association, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Delaware Theatre Company, Fund for Women at the Delaware Community Foundation, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay, the Grand Opera House, Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, Longwood Foundation, Longwood Gardens, Mt. Cuba Center for Piedmont Flora, Multiplying Good (formerly the Jefferson Awards Foundation), OperaDelaware, Planned Parenthood of Delaware, Stockings for Soldiers, Tatnall School and the University of Delaware.

A video shown at Tuesday’s ceremony at the Queen featured congratulations from Joe Biden and a dozen leaders of prominent institutions on how their magnanimity, time, counsel and resources have improved Delaware.

Gerret recalled his mother having him explore nature and asking “What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell?” (hence support of Mt. Cuba). He told stories about his grandmother’s interest in art (hence support of the Delaware Art Museum) and visiting his uncle’s estate (hence support of Longwood).

A cousin sought help running an environmental management center (hence support of the Brandywine Conservancy, which has protected 60,000 acres). His father supported Planned Parenthood (so did he, resulting in Delaware’s largest cancer screening facility). He mentioned his life-saving heart bypass (hence support of Christiana Care, including the Gerret and Tatiana Copeland Arrhythmia Center). He encouraged people to “find their niche and target it.” Since 1973, their niches tend to be animal welfare, art, education, health care, history, music and the environment.

In another interview, Tatiana said only a few causes have made her “get involved with her heart,” with Festival Napa Valley (a culinary, wine and arts festival near their Bouchaine Vineyards) up next.

Their love of dogs led to supporting multiple groups and to the Reggie Fund (named a dog they adopted), which helps pay for care of pets in needy families.

Gerret began his acceptance speech by saying he was “humbled” by the award and repeating the theme by twice channeling an old Alan Ladd western: “Aw, shucks, Ma’am. ’tweren’t nothin’.”

 – By Ken Mammarella

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