Dianna Smith, Special to The Palm Beach Post
MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Nancy Hart, 71
Nancy Hart is not a scientist, but she’s working hard to ensure that life-changing things like cures for cancer will be found.
And she does it all because of her love for the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter.
This 71-year-old from South Carolina is a former teacher who spent much of her career helping students discover the joy in math.
“The math teachers I had were so terrible, I wanted to make it fun,” said Hart, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens.
And she did make it fun, even encouraging some of her students to move onto more challenging math classes. Some, she said, went on to become engineers.
Today Hart is still helping others, but this time she’s aiding brilliant scientists who are close to discovering and inventing things that most people couldn’t even imagine. The scientists at Scripps amaze Hart so much that she now dedicates her days to raising money that will help pay for research because the federal government has cut so much of the funding once slated for that.
“These scientists are so dedicated, but they have to spend so much time writing grants when they should be in the labs,” she said. “So they are being forced to do their own fundraising to run their labs. I have to do something important with my time. What could be more important than this?”
Hart moved to South Florida in 1990 with her husband of 52 years, Joel Hart. She’s a mother of two and a grandmother of 10, and she said she’s always happy, enthusiastic and tenacious.
“I have a lot of happy hormones,” she said.
And that’s exactly the kind of person Scripps needs in its corner.
Her upbeat attitude kept her searching for ways to raise money for the scientists there, which is how she got started with the Food for Thought luncheon series, scheduled to take place Feb. 9, March 8 and April 5. Hart serves as the chairwoman. The series will include a catered lunch that will feature a speaker from Scripps, and it will help people learn about what it is Scripps does.
Hart, who is also a self-proclaimed foodie, loves to cook and host dinner parties.
“There’s something about the smell of homemade bread in the house that’s intoxicating,” she said.
So Food for Thought actually allows her to combine her passion for food with her passion for science.
She also makes room in her schedule for a long list of other organizations she’s involved with, and she’s ever so proud to be as busy as she is. Being busy keeps her motivated and involved in the community.
And she plans to stay that way for as long as she can.
Luncheon tickets are $100 per person. They will take place at Scripps Florida, 120 Scripps Way, Jupiter. For more information visit www.scripps.edu/florida or call 561-228-2551.
What are your hobbies?
I love to cook and entertain. Bringing people together for a soiree at my house is my favorite thing to do. We also collect contemporary glass – I am transported by the beauty of these works of art.
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
Probably spend the day trying to be uninvisible! You can’t make an impact if people cannot see you or hear you.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
What is the best advice you ever received?
This bit of advice from my daughter-in-law, Kim, are truly words to live by: “You are a master of your words till you say them, then you are their slave.”
What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?
My father was present for the Japanese surrender on Sept 2, 1945 and often talked about the experience with awe and respect. I would have liked to have been there with him. He was one of the first Americans in the Japanese home islands after the surrender. The city he visited was totally destroyed yet within three days the trolleys were operating again. Amazing.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
Family dinners at my grandparents’ home in South Carolina where my grandmother would serve her famous handmade apple strudel. I watched as she rolled the dough impossibly thin and have never been able to duplicate her recipe. The taste was sublime.
Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?
My first contact here with a true philanthropist was Sheila Englestein. Her kindness, generosity and true spirit of community service inspired me to do more with the gifts G-d has given me. She is beautiful, compassionate and always approachable.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I am a prude! I don’t like “bad words” in fact it really offends me to hear them spoken. I am also a stickler about good table manners and cannot believe how many people stick their fingers in their plates instead of using the utensil provided – a knife! When my kids were little we practiced for the day we would dine with the Queen of England.
What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
A cell phone? I need more information to answer this one; I guess a fishing pole, matches and a cast iron skillet. That way I won’t starve.