Philanthropy in Action

Donor Spotlight

The Power of Persisting

Kim H. Hurt

From Vietnam to the World

Kim Hurt was born into a large family in northern Vietnam. Her grandfather financed the country’s first electrical plant, and her father, as manager of the plant, was lovingly called “The Boss.” Like her father, who had been schooled in France, Kim was fluent in both Vietnamese and French. When the communists invaded the French territory, the family experienced a terrible upheaval. “We buried all our jewels under concrete and left with the gold,” she remembers.

Eventually, the entire family was repatriated to France, where Kim attended boarding school and developed a lifelong love of Paris. But she also had a childhood American dream she couldn’t shake. When the opportunity arose, Kim sat for the exams and qualified for a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States. She landed at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1954.

Kim was thrown into a world that was alien, and in every way fascinating, to her in Madison. Even the spoken English was new to her; it was nothing like what she had learned at the lycées in France. Outgoing and intelligent, Kim made friends quickly and took as many courses as she was allowed. “I wanted to see, know, and learn everything,” she said. In Wisconsin, after graduating, Kim taught French for seven years—a job she loved—before returning to France. In Paris, she taught adults, specifically bank executives whose jobs required a facility with English and French. One of her students, George Hurt, an American officer for Citicorp, would eventually become her husband; "he married me so he wouldn’t have to pay for language courses,” Kim jokes.

“It just makes sense to help the Hospital. They saved my life and help so many other people.”

Friendship and Persistence

The couple began their wonderful life together, living in and exploring India, Angola, Tahiti, Portugal, and the U.S. After 13 happy years of marriage, tragically, George passed away. Heartbroken and grieving, Kim turned to kind contacts of her husband as she remade her life again. When she was in her forties, she devised a bold and therapeutic plan. In Vero Beach, Florida, she would learn to fly commercial airplanes to free her mind of the unexpected loss. After earning her pilot’s license, she did this for a few years, mostly delivering airplanes all over the country.

Kim spent the next two decades in Nigeria, where she began to create valued business connections. While there, she sold airplanes, started a business selling uniforms and accessories, and established a successful petroleum plant with a Belgian partner. After years of hard work, she took time to relax by retreating to the Algarve in Southern Portugal, where she had built a villa with a beautiful garden. “It was a house built for friends,” she says. And for years friends came. She also made time to visit her beloved Paris and spent winters in New York to escape the African heat. But Kim’s assiduous nature eventually took a toll on her health. In 2011, she started her move to New York to be near good friends.

Before her health records could be transferred from France, Kim suffered a devastating fall. Thinking her symptoms were minor—a headache, very sore hands—she went about her daily routine. Eventually, at her friends’ insistence, Kim went to the Emergency Department at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where she was shocked to learn she had broken her neck. Kim spent Thanksgiving week in the Hospital, receiving surgery on her cervical vertebrae. She often muses that she could have been permanently paralyzed if not for the excellent care she received. What still impresses Kim about the ordeal is that she walked into NewYork-Presbyterian with no U.S. medical records, no references, and no insurance —yet she was treated by Hospital staff with great compassion and without hesitation.

“From walking in off the street to having an operation of that magnitude—I felt so grateful and amazed,” she says. “I decided that day to do something for the Hospital.” In gratitude, and with a caring heart, Kim has named NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital as a beneficiary of her estate plans.

Throughout her life, Kim’s wide circle of friends has sustained her—and she has sustained them. Kim feels lucky to have friends, nephews, and nieces all over the world—Paris, Hong Kong, Lagos, Lisbon, London—with whom she stays in close touch. Always affable, Kim continues to create close personal bonds in New York, and at NewYork-Presbyterian.

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