March 22, 2011/WMU News
KALAMAZOO--A $100 million cash gift, the largest ever made to a Michigan college or university, will be used to give birth to a private medical school at a public institution--Western Michigan University.
Announced March 22 by WMU President John M. Dunn, the anonymous gift is among the 10 largest cash gifts ever made to an American public university and the 15th largest in the history of American higher education. The gift will serve as the foundation funding for a school of medicine that WMU is developing in partnership with Kalamazoo's two major hospitals, Borgess Health and Bronson Healthcare.
"Yesterday, I spoke with our donors to express the extreme gratitude of this University and this community," Dunn said at a morning news conference. "This is a historic gift and a historic moment. With their gift, these generous donors are endorsing the vision we've developed with our partners. It's a vision that will transform this community by leveraging its legacy and unique resources."
In making the announcement, Dunn mentioned key strengths upon which the new medical school will build--the community's long commitment to higher education, its 125-year history in the life sciences and its 35-year track record of providing third- and fourth-year medical education through two world-class teaching hospitals.
"Education, public/private partnerships and donor commitment are working in Kalamazoo in a way that makes this community an economic development model not just for the state but for the nation," Dunn said. "I'm so pleased to be a part of a community with the kind of energy and vision that have become Kalamazoo's hallmarks."
For the past three years, WMU, Borgess and Bronson have been working together to develop the new WMU School of Medicine. Dunn was joined at the March 22 news conference by the CEOs of the two hospitals, Paul Spaude of Borgess and Frank Sardone of Bronson, and by the founding dean of the school of medicine, Dr. Hal B. Jenson, whose appointment was announced Jan. 25.
Since the beginning of discussions about establishing a medical school, the University and its community partners have said the school would be privately funded.
"We've known for some time that this is the right time and place to launch a medical school for the 21st century, and this gift signals the kind of donor confidence in this University and community that will make this initiative a reality," Dunn said. "This community has a tremendous history of attracting the confidence and support of donors. The Kalamazoo Promise, which offers free college tuition to our young people, is another great example. Our donors know this medical school will continue the vision of transformation and economic development through higher education. This is not just a gift to Western Michigan University, it is a gift to our entire community and region."
Dunn said that while the donors have indicated they wish to make the gift anonymously at this point, it is possible that they will agree to be identified at some point in the future.
"Of course we will honor their wishes, but we hope some day to be able to acknowledge them by name and thank them again for their generosity," he said. "Theirs is the kind of support we will need on many fronts as we continue to move forward and grow as a research university. Such donor support is more important than ever in these challenging economic times."
Private fundraising for the WMU School of Medicine, Dunn noted, is part of an overall capital campaign for Western Michigan University that will be formally announced later this year.
"This gift was made specifically for the medical school initiative," Dunn said. "But it serves as an example of the type of historic work we will continue to do at Western Michigan University with the help of our donors. There are more opportunities and a need for donors who want to be part of this initiative or who want to help make history by supporting work in other disciplines. This gift marks a seminal moment, but we are not finished. We have more work to do."
A school of medicine in Kalamazoo has been under discussion and in the planning stage since late 2007. In 2009, WMU received an anonymous $1.8 million gift that was characterized as "seed money" to allow the University and its community partners to begin development of the school.
Early in 2010, WMU filed a letter of intent and was awarded applicant status with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the group that accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada. Earlier this year, following a yearlong national search, the University announced the selection of Jenson as founding dean of the school. Committees with communitywide representation have been formed to tackle the development of curriculum, facilities, finances and communication.
The WMU School of Medicine will open in fall 2013 or fall 2014. For more information, visit www.wmich.edu/medicine.