Access to quality medical care is key to keeping a community healthy, particularly on an island where, without a hospital, inclement weather could prevent a patient from getting urgently needed care.
Nantucket’s first hospital was founded in 1912 in a homestead on West Chester Street. In 1957, the hospital’s facilities were moved to its current location on Prospect Street. As the island population grew and more sophisticated medical services were required, it became clear a new hospital was needed.
A capital campaign to build an upgraded medical facility on Nantucket was launched in 2013, and by the time the new hospital opened to patients in February of 2019, $120 million had been raised. The new Nantucket Cottage Hospital was debt-free and financed entirely through private donations—not a penny of taxpayer dollars was used. It was an achievement unprecedented on Nantucket Island. Among the many donors, small and large, one couple stands out as having led the charge: Bruce and Elisabeth Percelay.
Bruce Percelay is known by many on Nantucket for his expertise in real estate and marketing. Founder and chairman of The Mount Vernon Company, on Nantucket, he publishes N Magazine and owns two top-rated boutique hotels downtown. He enjoys boating, tennis, and cars and promises his team will bring their “best game” to the 2022 Nantucket Daffodil Festival Antique Car Parade. The Percelays divide their time between Nantucket and Boston, but it’s Nantucket that has captured their hearts. He and Elisabeth spend a good bit of their time here in philanthropic endeavors.
His parents introduced Bruce to Nantucket when he was just five years old: “my parents took us here frequently on vacation. I started spending a lot of time on the island in the 1990s, and I was smitten,” he explained. “Something about the intimacy of Nantucket was appealing to me. The scale of it was the perfect antidote to living in Boston—a city I love, but still a city. Nantucket is a throwback in time. There’s a simplicity here: you can ride your bike every where…you can leave your keys in your car…you still have a lot of trust in your neighbors. You don’t worry about crime as you do in urban areas…And I love boating!”
Bruce and Elisabeth have two sons, William and Charlie, both born at Nantucket Cottage Hospital. “My wife is Dutch: in Holland a lot of people have their children at home, even today. When we discussed where to have our kids, we looked at the maternity ward [on Nantucket], and my wife said ‘this looks really nice.’ There was more personal attention than if we had our kids at a major hospital in Boston, and the infection rate is much lower here than in a big city medical center. It played out exactly as we hoped… in fact, I wanted to stay an extra night: they were serving salmon and the food was so good and we were so comfortable.”
The Percelays take active roles in supporting the communities where they live. “We try to roll up our sleeves,” as he puts it. From 2003 to 2005, Bruce was a driving force when the Nantucket Historical Association reconstructed their Whaling Museum. “The Whaling Museum has a real special place in my heart because I had a chance to help build it.” When it came time to launch the capital campaign to build a new hospital here, Bruce and Elisabeth were at the forefront , chairing the campaign, participating on the Board of Trustees, and encouraging donors.
“It was an intense involvement for year s . . .The number [to be raised] was daunting. This was the largest capital campaign for a community hospital in the United States. The first issue was to overcome doubts that it could be done. Early on it was very conceptual: getting people to feel the sense of immediacy and reality early on was difficult,” Bruce explained.
In 2016, the Percelays further demonstrated their dedication to the cause with a substantial gift of $10 million dollars to the NCH capital campaign—then hospital president and CEO Margot Hartmann called “a game-changer.”
“When we decided to make a commitment to the hospital, it was a turning point. When you become a donor yourself, it is a lot easier to ask people to give. Once it started to build momentum, it did not stop.”
Not only did the NCH capital campaign raise enough for the new medical facility, there is money remaining for new staff housing units to help address the island’s affordable housing crisis. The new hospital meets hurricane design specifications to withstand winds in excess of 185 mph and is certified as a LEED Gold v4 building.
In recognition of their generous gift and their key roles in the endeavor to build the new hospital, a major portion of the building—the part that includes the emergency room, surgical suite, and inpatient rooms—has been named the Percelay Pavilion. Bruce and Elisabeth are modest when asked about the naming, saying that they agreed it would be a wonderful statement to their children: “We are very fortunate in life, and we’ve worked very hard. It’s important to us to show our children that you don’t just work for ourselves: you work to leave the planet better than you found it…We want to show them by example.”
“To be involved in building a new hospital that will help people and perhaps save someone’s life…it has left an indelible mark on me and on Elisabeth…We supported the hospital in a significant way, but what we got back is immeasurable.”
The Percelays continue their involvement with Nantucket Cottage Hospital: “we feel vested in the hospital, and we feel vested in the community. We want the hospital to be as good as it can be.” This year they are event chairs of the 25th Annual Boston Pops on Nantucket fundraiser. August 13, 2022 will be the first time since the pandemic began that this iconic island event can again be held in-person. “We’re going to pull out all the stops: it will be quite a night,” commented Bruce. Recording artist and actress Skyler Wright, who was raised on-island, will open the evening with our National Anthem, and guest vocalist Marc Martel will bring the music of Queen to the stage on Jetties Beach. Tickets to the 2022 Boston Pops on Nantucket will be available in May at nantuckethospital.org.