If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey — and really, who isn’t — you’ve no doubt seen this a few times:
“Funding for Masterpiece is provided by the Masterpiece Trust, created to ensure the series future, with support from Donald and Darlene Shiley and the following…”
“The following” change episode to episode, but the Shileys remain at the top of the list. You’ll even see their names as supporters of Masterpiece Mystery.
Which got me thinking — who are Donald and Darlene Shiley? Should I know their names already? And can I personally thank them for ‘ensuring the future’ and very existence of Downton Abbey?
Sadly, Donald died in August of last year, but not before he made tremendous contributions as a doctor and philanthropist. Shiley collaborated with Swedish cardiologist Dr. Viking Bjork to develop the Bjork-Shiley heart valve, which is credited with saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
He also contributed millions to research centers in San Diego which bear his name. The Shiley Eye Center at UC San Diego. The Shiley Center for Science and Technology at the University of San Diego. The Donald P. Shiley Cardiovascular Research Center at San Diego State University.
He and his wife Darlene have given millions to Alzheimers research, the Scripps Clinic, The Old Globe Theater and KPBS. (She worked as a TV public service director and promotions manager before their marriage.)
So now, each time I sit down to enjoy another addictive episode of Downton Abbey, I’ll smile knowing an even greater love story made the whole darn thing possible.