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Bequest Gives Future Students a Chance in Medicine

Alumnus makes planned gift to support medical student scholarships.

Dr. Sander with his wife, Margaret, on Lake Erie’s Rattlesnake Island.

This story was published in the fall 2019 issue of Legacy, a planned giving newsletter from Northwestern's medical school. Read the whole issue here.

In fall 1967, James Sander, ’71 MD, a freshly-minted medical student at Northwestern, joined his classmates for a meeting with Merrel D. Flair, EdD, then assistant dean and director of Admissions.

“Dean Flair said, ‘Northwestern is a family. Medical school is not going to be easy, but we want everybody here to finish. We’ll do whatever we can to help you accomplish that,’” recalled Dr. Sander. 

Later that year, the unexpected happened: Dr. Sander’s father died suddenly after a heart attack. His roommate had a car and drove him home to Toledo, Ohio, for the funeral and to take care of the family’s affairs. His mother had passed away five years earlier.

“While I was home, I got a call from Dean Flair. He checked my records and saw that I had a brother five years younger,” Dr. Sander said. “He asked if I needed to take care of my brother. Then he said, ‘If need be, he can come and live at my family’s house and finish high school here so that you can stay in medical school.’”

Dr. Sander has never forgotten that conversation. “I was blown away. It was an incredible offer from someone who barely knew me,” Dr. Sander said. “Dean Flair stood by what he had said earlier. When I potentially needed help, he was there. I thought that was pretty incredible.

“Northwestern gave me the chance to have a great career—I’ve loved every minute of it. Now I want to give some other kids that same chance.”

Dr. Sander did not have to take Dean Flair up on his kind offer—he had an aunt who was able to take care of his brother. Dr. Sander was able to complete medical school at Northwestern and went on to pursue pediatrics and, later, a specialization in child neurology. After a long career, he recently retired and decided with his wife, Margaret, to make a bequest to support the Class of ’71 Medical Student Scholarship fund at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

He says his encounter with Dean Flair is only one reason he decided to make Northwestern a beneficiary of his individual retirement account through his estate plan. “The main reason is that Northwestern gave me the chance to have a great career—I’ve loved every minute of it. Now I want to give some other kids that same chance,” Dr. Sander explained. “I’ve had great opportunities in my life, and I’m eternally grateful.”

Looking back, what he remembers most fondly about his time in medical school at Northwestern is the people he met, from Dean Flair, to the roommate who drove him home, to Jacob Suker, ’56 MD, the team physician for the Chicago Cubs baseball team whom Dr. Sander got to work with during rotations at Wesley Memorial Hospital.

“It’s always been about the people,” he said.

Learn more about scholarships at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

For more information about supporting scholarships or making a planned gift, please contact Vic Maurer at 312.503.2417 or