This story was published in the March 2020 issue of The Philanthropist, a newsletter for supporters and friends of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Foundation. Read the whole issue here.
An anonymous member of the medical school’s Class of 1960 explains why he supports scholarships and offers advice to fellow donors.
How did you first decide to give to Northwestern’s medical school?
When I graduated in 1960, my classmates and I made a pledge to give back to Northwestern in our lifetimes. You don't necessarily become wealthy being a physician—whatever you invest has to turn out well—but I’ve had a successful career and the opportunity to earn a professorial rank at a university, and I followed through on my pledge. The other thing is that when I went to medical school, the majority of the teachers were strictly voluntary. They donated their time to me and my peers unselfishly. So I say: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Why do you think scholarships to our medical students are a worthy cause for your philanthropy in particular?
I believe that somebody whose means are not great, but who really wants to become a physician, should have the opportunity to become one. I have young friends who came out of medical school with $300,000 in debt. They had to pay the rent, feed their families and start a career while repaying that debt.
Our students go on to practice medicine across the United States and the world, for all kinds of patient populations. How do you hope your support will impact them as physicians?
I hope that if students come out of medical school without a huge amount of debt they will consider options like going back to their own hometowns where there may be great needs for physicians. When I graduated, I went to practice in a small town in the Midwest because they desperately needed my specialty. I was able to do that because of the GI Bill—I was an infantry officer in Korea so my medical school was paid for. When I came out of school, my wife and I had $50 and no debt and could pretty much go wherever we wanted. With huge debt, you have to go someplace that's going to pay you right away, because when you start a practice, cash flow does not come overnight.
Do you have any advice to other donors considering making a gift to the medical school?
I think that all of us should give according to our means. If we all give something to the medical school, even a small amount, it would help these students. And I’ll be honest: I’ve looked into a lot of other places to give. I give to my church, but the only other place where I know my support will do really well is my medical school, where they are educating young physicians. As we all age, we're going to need more and more qualified people to take care of us. I think of any place you're going to give, you are going to do the best giving it to your medical school.
Thank You to Our Anonymous Donors!
Many supporters of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Medicine hospitals choose to make their gifts anonymously—almost 800 donors to the medical school, in fact, since the start of our campaign. While we do not recognize them by name, we do recognize them by the impact they have on our students, educators, scientists and clinicians—and on the countless patients these members of our community serve today and will serve into the future. We are so grateful to our anonymous donors for the generous contributions they have made to our medical school and healthcare system.