Jonas Gift: A Legacy for Children's Vision

Barbara and Donald Jonas


About eight years ago, philanthropist and entrepreneur Donald Jonas received some devastating news from his doctor at Columbia’s Department of Ophthalmology. “I hate to tell you this, Mr. Jonas,” Stephen Tsang, M.D., Ph.D. told him. “but it looks like you’re going blind.”

Dr. Tsang diagnosed Mr. Jonas with Late Onset Retinal Dystrophy (LORD), a rare genetic eye condition that destroys the cells responsible for peripheral vision and depth perception. It was the beginning of a personal journey for Mr. Jonas and his wife, Barbara, that would have the potential to profoundly affect the lives of thousands of future patients facing vision loss. 

This fall, inspired by their personal experiences, the couple and longtime Columbia University donors announced the creation of Jonas Children’s Vision Care, a first-of-its kind, integrated effort to prevent and treat blindness and other serious eye disorders in children. The project will, among other things, help establish a state-of-the art pediatric ophthalmic diagnostic and imaging center at New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “It’s very tough losing a little more sight every year,” says Mr. Jonas, a retired retail executive. “I bump into people; I try to avoid crowds. It was important for me to do something.” 

Read the full cover story in the Viewpoints Newsletter,    FALL 2016/WINTER 2017 edition.

And follow all the developments of the Jonas Children's Vision Care in the Pediatrics Eye News Newsletter.