Lois Pope, one of America’s leading philanthropists, has dedicated her life to helping those in need and improving the lives of the voiceless and vulnerable in our society. This stalwart mission is reflected in the three transformative organizations she has established: Leaders in Furthering Education (LIFE), the Lois Pope LIFE Foundation, and the Disabled Veterans’ LIFE Memorial Foundation.
Mrs. Pope is recognized nationally as one of the country’s foremost advocates for veterans and especially disabled veterans, earning the moniker “The Pope of Disabled Veterans.” She created and spearheaded the legislation, building, and endowment of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated on October 5, 2014 in Washington DC as the nation’s first permanent public tribute to the four million living disabled American veterans and all those who have died. The Memorial was presented with the inaugural Veterans Award for standing as an everlasting symbol paying tribute to those who have sacrificed so much in service to this country and for ensuring that they are never marginalized or forgotten.
More recently, she secured a major victory when, on December 16, 2016, President Obama signed a resolution designating October 5 each year as a day for all Americans to pay special honor to American Veterans Disabled for Life. This triumph was the culmination of a two-decades-long quest for Mrs. Pope to see that disabled veterans — who come home from battle missing limbs, are blinded and burned, and are permanently traumatized both physically and emotionally — receive the honor and recognition they deserve and have earned for defending the freedoms and ideals we in America enjoy and cherish.
The sacrifices and heroism of disabled veterans, past and present, were chronicled and illuminated in the widely acclaimed PBS film “Debt of Honor,” a documentary conceived, funded and executive produced by Mrs. Pope and directed by award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns.
Through LP LIFE Productions, she conceived, funded and executive produced the film “VA: The Human Cost of War,” also directed by Mr. Burns, to shed light on the controversial history and current day problems plaguing the Veterans Administration. As with “Debt of Honor,” this documentary uses vivid recollections of veterans and families to propel the story; in this case those who have been negatively impacted by the failures of the VA to care for them, which has led to the devastating result of 20 veterans committing suicide each day.
Her most recent film project is “Made for Each Other” a quietly rhapsodic, insightful, and deeply engaging exploration of the primordial relationship between dogs and human beings. Featuring intimate, insightful and riveting footage of dogs and human beings at work and play — shot in diverse locations across the United States, including research laboratories, kennels, rescue shelters, training facilities, hospitals, convalescent homes, game preserves, dog runs and backyards from Alaska to Atlanta and beyond – the film is a loving and clear-eyed exploration of this most moving and important of all intra-species relationships. “Made of Each Other” was produced and directed by Ric Burns and Bonnie Lafave; Mrs. Pope is the Executive Producer and chief creative partner.
An ardent supporter and Board member of American Humane, Mrs. Pope helped advocate for language in the National Defense Reauthorization Act that included for the first-time provisions to bring back to U.S. soil military dogs who served alongside American soldiers on the front lines of combat so that these courageous canines can be reunited with their human soldiers as service and therapy dogs. The bill was signed into law in November 2015, making it the third piece of national legislation Mrs. Pope has promoted.
Military service dogs also have a permanent physical tribute to their courage thanks to Mrs. Pope’s endowment of the soon-to-be-dedicated National Military Hero Dog Monument. In 2016, she and American Humane created the K9 Medal of Courage to be awarded each year in our nation’s capital to canines who served with distinction in combat. Both the monument and the medals fall under the auspices of the Lois Pope LIFE Center for Military Affairs at American Humane, the first center of its kind in the world. It comprises an array of treatment, support and research programs and services to cement the bond between the two and four legged heroes who have served in America’s Armed Forces.
Mrs. Pope is also the presenting sponsor of American Humane’s annual Hero Dog Awards, and a benefactor of the organization’s legendary Red Star Rescue mobile hospitals, which provide on-the-ground rescue, treatment, and shelter for animals lost, displaced, or neglected during natural disasters and situations of severe animal abuse. She is currently striving for shutting down puppy mills in America.
Her love and advocacy of animals recently inspired Mrs. Pope to give $1.5 million to the Tri-County Animal Rescue – the largest single donation the organization has ever received – to endow its new 9,000-square-foot veterinary center. The center, which opened on June 19, 2019, has been named the Lois Pope Pet Clinic in honor of her unparalleled generosity. The gift enabled Tri-County to complete construction and fully equip its state-of-the-art veterinary center, which offers affordable medical services to low-income families in the surrounding communities, as well as the organization’s own animals and those at other shelters.
Mrs. Pope is the driving force behind the establishment of the Lois Pope LIFE Center at the University of Miami School of Medicine, home to the Miami Project/Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, the world’s foremost center for research, treatment, and services for paralysis and other neurological diseases.
Mrs. Pope recently gave $12 million to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute to create the Lois Pope Center for Retinal & Macular Degeneration Research at Bascom Palmer’s Palm Beach Gardens, Florida campus. This is the largest gift ever received by Bascom Palmer.
In addition to her work with disabled veterans and military service dogs, Mrs. Pope and her foundations have provided support for medical research, college scholarships, summer camp experiences for thousands of disadvantaged children, humanitarian relief, the performing arts, and animal welfare. Among the many organizations that have benefitted from her leadership and generosity are Magen David Adom, Israel’s Red Cross; Weizmann Institute of Science, City College of New York, and the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League. The village of El Triunfo in Guatemala has a new clean water system, while young refugee women displaced by the Sudanese war now have a home in the U.S., both thanks to her foundations’ efforts.
Organizations that have conferred their most prestigious awards on Mrs. Pope include Florida Atlantic University, Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Ellis Island Foundation, Rabbinical College of America, Magen David Adom, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She was named a Daily Point of Life recipient by President George W. Bush, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell appointed her to the board of the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies at City College of New York. She serves also on the boards of the Foreign Policy Association, University of Miami, Palm Beach Opera, Armory Arts Center, and Florida Atlantic University.
Mrs. Pope, who was a Broadway actress earlier in her career, recently returned to the stage as “Aunt Alicia” in Jan McArt’s 2020 production of the classic Broadway hit musical, Gigi at the Lynn Theatre.
A mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, she has adopted several dogs and five cats. A resident of Manalapan, FL., she has trained for and completed five marathons.