Zaleskis Establish Two Scholarships to Honor Strong Family Ties
This story was published in the April 2023 issue of The Philanthropist, a newsletter for supporters and friends of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Read the whole issue here.
As a young girl, Jane Turnbull Zaleski never became alarmed at hearing her family’s garage door opening in the middle of the night. She knew her dad, Theodore “Ted” Turnbull, ’45 MD, had his black bag in hand and was off to the hospital to see a patient. “My daddy loved being a doctor, and his patients were very dear to him,” said Mrs. Zaleski. In 1951, Dr. Turnbull launched his medical practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma—where doctors were scarce—after his service in WWII. An internist with cardiology training from the Mayo Clinic, he soon became the go-to “heart” doctor in the relatively small but growing Tulsa at that time.
Meanwhile, as Dr. Ted Turnbull was using the skills he learned at Northwestern, some 700 miles away in Evanston, Illinois, another Dr. Turnbull was teaching those very same skills to medical students and residents. A first cousin to Ted, George C. Turnbull, ’23 MD, served as a longtime attending physician at Evanston Hospital (now NorthShore University HealthSystem) and associate professor of Medicine at Northwestern. Active in professional societies, a John Evans Club member, and a proud alumnus, George was passionate about medical education.
Scholarships Are Tribute to One Family’s Extraordinary Passion for Medicine
Mrs. Zaleski grew up accompanying her father, Ted, on hospital rounds. She and her siblings also worked in the office of his solo practice. Not surprisingly, her father’s devotion to his patients inspired Mrs. Zaleski to become a nurse—a career she enjoyed for close to 40 years in the Chicago area before retiring in 2016.
As trustee of a philanthropic investment fund established by George’s only child, the late Mary Ellen Turnbull Fellman, Mrs. Zaleski decided to take the opportunity to recognize all that Northwestern has meant to the Turnbull family. Mary Ellen was a 1954 graduate of Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. In 2022, Jane along with her husband, Steve, an engineer, made a $4 million commitment to scholarships to honor both the memory of her father and his cousin, George, and to help future generations of medical students.
The Zaleskis’ remarkable gift has led to the establishment of two unique scholarships at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. A four-year scholarship, the Theodore Turnbull, MD Scholarship has been awarded to first-year student Michelle Roh to support her four years at Feinberg.
“Growing up in a low-income Korean-American family, I was the first person in my family to even consider becoming a physician. With the generosity of the Zaleskis, I can now pursue my dream!” said Michelle. “The Turnbull scholarship allows me to focus on my education without a heavy financial burden. One day I hope to emulate the Zaleskis’ investment in me and contribute to the medical education of future students.”
George and Ted Turnbull
Raised on adjacent farms in small town Elmira in north-central Illinois, George and Ted Turnbull came from a long line of farmers. In 1849, the first Turnbulls emigrated from Scotland and started a sheep farm. (Today, Mrs. Zaleski manages the original Turnbull homestead, where corn and soybeans are now grown.) Looking to education as the best way to advance in life, George and Ted turned to Northwestern.
“During WWII, the military desperately needed doctors. My daddy joined a cohort of men whose medical school education was paid by the U.S. Army,” said Mrs. Zaleski. “He was in a three-year medical school program during the week and marched in the armory [now the home of the Museum of Contemporary Art] on the weekends.”
Ted entered military service soon after receiving his medical degree. He served as an Army captain, making 10 crossings of the North Atlantic to care for soldiers. George also was in the Army, retiring with the rank of colonel after a distinguished tour of duty with the Army Medical Corps.
In 1975, George passed away after practicing internal medicine primarily in Evanston for more than 45 years. At age 80, Ted passed away in 1999 after a lifetime of earning the respect of many patients through his kindness and compassion.
A one-year award, the George C. Turnbull, MD Scholarship, will be awarded after Match Day 2023 to one or more graduating fourth-year Feinberg students in need of debt relief.
“My father and his cousin were farm boys who had really no money at all. Northwestern gave them the springboard to become well-respected and beloved doctors who touched many lives,” said Mrs. Zaleski of Geneseo, Illinois. “We hope that the students we support will some day pass forward the knowledge they gained at Northwestern to help many more people.”
The Zaleskis see their gift as a fitting tribute to all the Drs. Turnbull achieved as physicians. “We are honoring the amazing livelihood that Northwestern made possible for my father and Dr. George,” said Mrs. Zaleski. “The boys gave so much of themselves to others throughout their lives. Our goal is to help future physicians to do the same.”
For more information about supporting scholarships at the medical school, please contact Larry Kuhn at 312-503-1717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.