A former maintenance worker and his wife have given ST. JOHN’S MERCY FOUNDATION a $2.5 million estate gift. The estate of ROBERT and HELENE HOFFMANN donated the money following Helene’s death in 2009. Robert, who worked in the hospital’s maintenance department for more than 15 years, passed away in 2001. In recognition of the gift, the hospital will name the pediatric emergency department in the couple’s memory. St. John’s Mercy expects to see more than 22,000 children in the Helene and Robert Hoffmann Pediatric Emergency Department this year. 

    NPR’s IRA FLATOW is bringing his popular Talk of the Nation: Science Friday show to St. Louis next month. The show’s March 12 episode will be broadcast live from the SAINT LOUIS SCIENCE CENTER. Tickets to the free event were gone quickly, but we’re told there’s a waiting list for standing room tickets.

    WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE is still basking in the glow of receiving the largest global health grant in its history. The BILL & MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION has given the university a five-year, $13 million grant to improve efforts to eliminate tropical diseases, which as a group are expected to have a health impact comparable to that of HIV and malaria. The new project will target two parasitic diseases. One is lymphatic filariasis, a leading cause of disability worldwide that infects an estimated 120 million people. The other is onchocerciasis, or river blindness, which occurs mainly in Africa and has infected approximately 20 million people.

    Hometown girl COURTNEY O’DONNELL, who happens to be DR. JILL BIDEN’s press secretary, is featured in the February issue of Redbook magazine. O’Donnell is a Georgetown grad who served as deputy communications director for HOWARD DEAN and for PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON’s foundation before landing her dream job of working in the White House. The magazine follows O’Donnell through a typical day in Washington and describes her challenge of balancing work, marriage and motherhood. O’Donnell is the daughter of PHYLLIS and TOM O’DONNELL of Town and Country. She and husband CASSIDY MORGAN have a 1-year-old son, FELIX, and another child due this spring.

        A national ad group has named a University of Missouri-St. Louis senior one of its ‘Most Promising Minority Students.’ Media studies major NICHOLAS FOSTER of Spanish Lake was the only Missouri student recognized on the American Advertising Federation’s annual list. He and 50 other marketing and communications students from across the country were invited to attend network and interview sessions with top ad agencies and media companies in New York earlier this month.

    And the award goes to…(surprise!) DR. PETER RAVEN, who is once again being recognized as a worldwide leader in science and technology. This time, the Missouri Botanical Garden prez is the recipient of the 2009 Award for International Scientific Cooperation from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Raven accepted the award last month at CAS’ annual conference in Beijing.

    The littlest O’Leary…Congratulations to Opera Theatre of Saint Louis general director TIMOTHY O’ LEARY and his wife KARA on the birth of their daughter, ROSE EVELYN, last month.

    Help local Cinderellas out by going through your closet for gently used prom and bridesmaid dresses. THE METRO ST. LOUIS CINDERELLA PROJECT is collecting special-occasion dresses to benefit girls in need. The dresses will be available at temporary ‘Cinderella’ boutiques where girls referred by school counselors and social service agencies will have the chance to select a gown for free. Dresses can be dropped off at the customer service kiosks at Chesterfield Mall, Mid Rivers Mall, West Country Center and South County Center through the end of February.

    Pillow fight, anyone? JUVENILE DIABETES RESEARCH FOUNDATION is kicking off ‘PJs For The Cure,’ a pajama fundraiser to benefit much-needed research to treat, cure and prevent diabetes. Cotton pajamas in women’s ($40) and children’s ($25) sizes are available by calling (877) PJ2-CURE or at