Marilyn Hart likes to joke that her longtime doctor, Casey Eye Institute Director David Wilson, MD, the Paul H. Casey chair in ocular oncology, once told her she could be a “poster child” for successful eye surgeries.
She is deeply grateful for the care she has received at Casey Eye Institute over the last 25 years. An eye disease called keratoconus damaged her corneas, blurring and distorting her vision. She has undergone multiple cornea transplants as well as glaucoma surgery and the repair of a detached retina. “Were it not for Casey Eye Institute, Marilyn would have suffered blindness a long time ago,” said her husband, Glenn.
Marilyn credits her good health to her excellent doctors: Larry Rich; John Morrison, the Fred P. and Joan Thompson Family endowed professor; Winston Chamberlain; and Wilson. Having faced multiple health challenges over many years, Marilyn knows how important it is to have somewhere to turn, and a health care team you can trust. “I’ve had a long association with a lot of fine people at Casey,” she said. “My doctors have been wonderful. It’s a comfort to know that these very professional people are so caring and concerned for their patients.”
Marilyn saw the same care and attention given to another family member, who was born with a rare condition that caused blindness in one eye. Like Marilyn, he underwent multiple surgeries at Casey and today is thriving.
It’s no surprise that the Harts are among the institute’s most loyal supporters. They are committed to doing what they can to help others preserve their sight.
Having built a thriving family business over more than 40 years, the Harts feel fortunate that they’re able to contribute through philanthropy. But they would be the first to tell you that their true wealth lies in their close-knit, multigenerational family.
Their story began when a mutual friend set them up on a blind date. Glenn had recently graduated from the University of Missouri; Marilyn was still a student there. They went out for burgers and a movie — and immediately clicked. “Marilyn has an upbeat, cheery personality,” said Glenn. “She was the kind of person I was looking for.” Marilyn was pleased to discover that her date was a full six inches taller than her own 5’8” frame. She was impressed by Glenn’s politeness. “We were instantly compatible,” she said. After Marilyn graduated and Glenn completed a term in the Air Force, they married.
With a degree in forestry, Glenn chose to pursue a career in building materials and the lumber industry, and the couple moved west to Oregon. “We’d never seen country this beautiful,” said Glenn. “We thought this was a place we’d like to make our home.” The Harts eventually settled in Lake Oswego, where they would raise their three children and grow their family business.
Glenn founded his own company, OrePac, in 1976 to distribute building products such as lumber, decking, doors, millwork and siding. Now, 43 years later, OrePac is still going strong. The family also acquired a second business, International Wood Products, which distributes building materials and select quality lumber products. Their two sons and daughter are now responsible for the executive management and operations of the family businesses.
"Were it not for Casey Eye Institute, Marilyn would have suffered blindness a long time ago." - Glenn Hart
“We’ve now turned it over to a second generation — and two of our grandchildren are the third generation working in the business,” said Glenn. This continuity extends to their employees. “We have several employees who have been with us 30 years or more,” said Glenn.
They created the Hart Family Foundation to fulfill their community service goals. “In the early years of growing a business and growing a family, there aren’t enough dollars to go around,” said Glenn. “At this later point in our lives, we wanted to make sure that we share some of our successes.”
Their children have also become involved in the Hart Family Foundation, contributing to the Gary and Christine Rood Family Pavilion, OHSU’s new guest house for patients who must travel long distances for specialized care.
Marilyn’s experience teaching special education students at Eliot Elementary School in north Portland (now Boise-Eliot/Humboldt) and her strong faith inspired her passion for education. She supports learning opportunities and after-school programs such as Self Enhancement, Inc.
The Harts have contributed consistently to OHSU capital campaigns, including a special gift in 2018 to help build a new facility so that Casey Eye Institute can serve more patients and advance its groundbreaking research.
Today Glenn and Marilyn divide their time between Oregon and California and enjoy spending time with their three children and 11 grandchildren. “Not bad for a blind date,” said Marilyn.