Carole (Vestali) Neag, a philanthropist and retired registered nurse whose generosity transformed UConn, died Sunday, April 16, at age 80. Neag, the widow of philanthropist Ray Neag ’56 ’01 H, is survived by her son David Hogan and his wife Heidi, her daughter, Elizabeth Lamoin and her husband James, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and extended family. A native of Torrington, Conn., Carole spent her later years in Wyomissing, Penn.
“I am heartbroken at the death of Carole Neag, beloved wife of my uncle,” said Sally Reis, Letitia Neag Morgan Chair in Educational Psychology and Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at UConn. “After her marriage to Ray, Carole became close friends with my husband Joe [Renzulli] and me and called me her little sister. She loved her family and friends deeply and was a caring and committed mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, and friend. Carole grew up in my hometown of Torrington and never forgot her roots, believing deeply that children from working class families need support and help to realize their potential.”
“Carole and Ray devoted their lives to doing all they could to help others achieve their dreams and accomplish their goals for the betterment not only of themselves, but society as a whole,” said UConn President Radenka Maric. “We at UConn are so grateful to the Neags for all they did to lift up this institution and generations of its people in pursuit of success, achievement, and excellence. Above all, I want to note that what people who knew her well will remember most about Carole was not simply her philanthropic generosity, but her generosity of spirit: her kindness, thoughtfulness, and positivity.”
As UConn’s most generous benefactors, the Neags leave a legacy of impact. The couple’s largest gift was a $23 million bequest in 1999, including $21 million to the Ray Neag School of Education Endowment Fund. As a result of this gift, which at the time was the largest in the history of UConn, the School of Education was renamed in their honor. The fund is used to increase the number and dollar amount of student scholarships and graduate assistantships, to subsidize faculty research grants, and to fund several endowed faculty positions. It supports faculty and staff development activities, and also is used as venture capital to initiate new outreach activities.
“Carole and Ray’s unparalleled support of our School was life-changing, not only impacting thousands of our students and alumni but also many school children across the state and nation who have been taught or mentored by our graduates,” said Neag School of Education Dean Jason G. Irizarry, Ed.D. “The Neags have been our biggest champions and greatest inspiration. They believed fervently in the transformative potential of education and leveraged their resources to create opportunities for others. Their generosity, which will be felt by generations to come, was only matched by their warmth of spirit. We will miss Carole every day, just as we do Ray.”
Other notable gifts from the Neags include a $10 million commitment to establish the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at UConn Health in 2004. The couple also made significant contributions to several other programs, including the Calhoun Cardiology Center; the Departments of Orthopedics, Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging, Radiation Oncology, Ophthalmology, and Dermatology; and the Carole and Ray Neag Medical Innovation Center at UConn School of Medicine.
“Carole’s interest and action in giving back to the community and society as a philanthropist was inspiring,” said Bruce Liang, M.D., F.A.C.C., interim CEO of UConn Health and dean of the UConn School of Medicine. “Carole, along with her late husband Ray Neag, were among UConn Health’s most ardent and loyal supporters. She always inspired us with her humanity, compassion, and her vision of how her gifts would serve causes for the betterment of our world. We will never forget her humanism, words of wisdom, selflessness, and dedication to helping others, and her unfailing love and support for her friends.”
Carole also established The Neag Foundation in 2019, with a focus on supporting education, health care, and the arts and humanities.
“During the last few years, we worked together to create the Neag Foundation, honoring the philanthropy that Ray and she demonstrated during their life together,” Reis added. “It has been an honor and privilege for me to contribute to this important initiative and be able to donate funds to worthy groups and organizations, and especially to UConn. I will think of her generosity and her love for Ray as this work continues during the rest of my life.”
The Neag Foundation’s most recent gift was a $7 million donation to the UConn School of Medicine to establish the Carole and Ray Neag Innovation Professorship, which supports School of Medicine faculty specializing in transformational research, and the Carole and Ray Neag Innovative Research Awards, which funds cutting-edge and high-risk research. The Carole and Ray Neag Medal of Honor, awarded by UConn Health, recognizes legacies in treatment, education, public service, or philanthropy.
Proud fans who were known to cheer on the Huskies and display UConn memorabilia in their home, the Neags are remembered for helping to raise UConn’s profile as a nationally ranked public research university through their philanthropy, advocacy, and service. They were members of the Founders Society’s Neag Circle, which was named in their honor, and the Charles Lewis Beach Society, as well as Life Members of the Alumni Association. They previously were honorary chairs of the Campaign Steering Committee from 2010-2013. Carole also served on the UConn School of Nursing Advisory Board from 2004-2007.
Carole formerly worked as a maternity and emergency room nurse at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington, Conn. She also served a number of organizations in Connecticut including the Occupational Health Nursing Association, the Sacred Heart School Board, the Torrington Historical Society, the Young Woman’s League, the Women’s Auxiliary of Hungerford Hospital, and the Performing Arts Council of Northwest Connecticut. She served as a director of the Berks Visiting Nurse Association and the Reading Symphony Orchestra Association.
Friends are invited to join Carole’s family on Friday, April 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Cook Funeral Home, 82 Litchfield St., Torrington. Mass will be held at 11 a.m. at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Litchfield, with burial to follow at Hillside Cemetery in Torrington. Her full obituary is available online.