Note: The following profile appeared in the November 2019 issue of Onward Magazine, just prior to Mr. Casey's passing. We are grateful for his generous and steadfast support of the Casey Eye Institute.
Paul Casey cares deeply about the OHSU Casey Eye Institute. Not a surprise: His family name is on the building. But you can’t fully understand the “why” of Paul’s generosity toward the institute without learning where he comes from. It’s a story of loss and luck. Inventiveness and determination. Grit and gratitude.
Paul’s grandfather, Henry Casey, was an Irish immigrant who died young in the early 1900s after unsuccessful efforts to mine silver in Nevada and find gold in Alaska. Paul’s father Harry quit the sixth grade and joined older brother Jim, just a young teenager himself, to become the family’s breadwinners. They worked six days a week for a combined $6 to help support their widowed mother and two younger siblings.
“They knew what it was like to survive as a family and have tough times and make the best of it, and that I always admired,” Paul said.
Jim Casey, an entrepreneur even as a boy, saw an opening in message and package delivery. After a few years of testing his ideas, he established a new business in 1907 — the American Messenger Service — that operated out of a small basement room in downtown Seattle. Today, that renamed business — United Parcel Service — is the world’s largest package delivery company.
The four founders of UPS: (from left) George Casey, Jim Casey, Charles Soderstrom and Everett McCabe
Harry Casey left the messenger company to his brothers Jim and George, and created his own path — first as foreman of a Ford car part assembly plant in Portland, and then as owner of the first Ford car dealership on the east side of Portland. But even though the brothers diverged professionally, they and their sister were unified in their desire to help others, and support causes of importance to them.
“My father had a great saying: ‘The world is a big storehouse of treasure, and you take out only what you can put back in,’” Paul recalled.
The Casey Eye Institute was one of the beneficiaries of that generosity. Harry was a member of the Oregon State Elks Association, which established the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic nearly 70 years ago, decades before a formal eye institute was opened by OHSU. Harry loved children. That passion to help kids — coupled with his connection to the Elks, and the visionary inspiration of OHSU ophthalmologic leaders Kenneth Swan, MD, and Frederick “Fritz” Fraunfelder, MD — led him, with his sister Marguerite, to make a generous gift in 1991 that helped construct the Casey Eye Institute, named in honor of their brothers.
"I’ve enjoyed my life and tried to follow along my dad and Jim’s principles, helping to provide for people not as fortunate as we were. I’m proud this legacy is being carried on by my children, too." — Paul Casey
Paul picked up where his father left off. He and his children, Tim, Maureen and Mike, led a successful matching campaign that raised money to fund an eye research floor in the OHSU Biomedical Research Building. Inspired by Phil and Penny Knight’s cancer fundraising challenge at OHSU, Paul established the Paul H. Casey Chair in Ocular Oncology, held by Casey Eye Institute Director David J. Wilson, MD, that is propelling the institute’s leadership in treating cancers of the eye.
“Paul Casey and his family launched the Casey Eye Institute on an amazing trajectory, and their continued support has been critical to our success in creating a truly world-class clinical and research facility,” said Dr. Wilson. “Paul’s personal interest and steadfast faith in us is so inspiring. When we reach our ambitious goal of ending preventable blindness, it will be because of Paul’s leadership and support of the missions of the institute.”
Paul Casey (right) with his father Harry on Harry's 100th birthday
"I’ve enjoyed my life and tried to follow along my dad and Jim’s principles, helping to provide for people not as fortunate as we were,” Paul said. “I’m proud this legacy is being carried on by my children, too.”
Last summer, at age 91, Paul made another significant gift that will help take Casey’s genetic research and gene therapy clinical care to the next level; the Paul H. Casey Genetics Division in the new Elks Children’s Eye Clinic under construction on Marquam Hill will provide far more space for research, clinical trials and patient treatment in a field where Casey already is a worldwide leader.
“Having been a science teacher, I’m particularly interested in continuing to advance efforts to find cures for various ailments,” Paul said. “The results Casey Eye Institute is getting are so encouraging. I’m always excited to see how well they are regarded nationally and throughout the world.
“I like feeling I’m a part of the Casey Eye Institute. I can’t think of a finer institution to help.”
Top photo: Paul Casey at Lewis & Clark Law School, where he received an honorary degree in 2019. Photo courtesy of Lewis & Clark Law School.