November 2013

A Meliora Message

A time for reflection. 

The last month brought a couple of events where it was particularly important to pause and reflect on the meaning of our efforts.

As the month began, we celebrated the life and work of Douglas Lowry. At the memorial event held in the renovated Kodak Hall—which Doug helped to make a reality—stories revolved around his love of music, poetry, and family. A selection of his compositions were performed, demonstrating his intellect and artistry, and he was remembered as a man who personally brought laughter and joy to many.

And as the month came to a close, we celebrated an historic milestone as The Meliora Challenge passed the $1 billion mark. It is a tremendous accomplishment, but reflection tells us that much remains to be done. There are still many deserving students who need the assistance of endowed scholarships and fellowships. There are still outstanding professors whose research and teaching would be encouraged from an endowed professorship. There are still men, women, and children waiting for us to make the breakthrough discovery that becomes their treatment, their cure.

The month brought us two very different celebrations. And we walked away from each refocused on what is really important.


Thanks a Billion: A Meliora Milestone

Chairman Emeritus Bob Witmer, Jr. ’59 and President Joel Seligman applaud James Aquavella, M.D., for his gift of more than $4 million, which pushed The Meliora Challenge past the $1 billion mark.

In 1992, Stanford University became the first private university to raise $1 billion or more in a campaign ($1.1 billion goal). For the last two decades, only 27 other private colleges and universities in the U.S. could say they have done the same. Now, the University of Rochester can say it too.

On November 20, President Joel Seligman announced The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester passed the $1 billion mark. James Aquavella, M.D., professor of ophthalmology, pushed the Campaign past this milestone with a commitment of more than $4 million.

“We are grateful for the vision, generosity and support of our alumni, friends, faculty, staff, parents, and students. Let me especially thank [Chief Advancement Officer] Jim Thompson and the great Advancement team for our progress to date,” said President Seligman. “On behalf of the University, I say to them all: ‘Thanks a billion!’”

The University made The Meliora Challenge an historic endeavor when it announced its $1.2 billion goal, at the Campaign’s public launch in October 2011. To this point, the Campaign has been an unprecedented success, largely due to a strong combination of leadership and philanthropy. No one demonstrates this better than Board of Trustees Chair Ed Hajim ’58. Hajim and his wife, Barbara, are among those leading Campaign giving, committing $30 million in 2008 to fund student scholarships and to support the endowment in the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences. The Campaign has also benefited from the partnership of Campaign Co-Chairs and University Trustees Cathy Minehan ’68 and Rich Handler ’83—both are generous scholarship donors.

“The Campaign has benefited from the philanthropy of many donors with gifts of all sizes,” said Hajim. “The $1 billion mark is truly significant, achievable only through our broad base of over 155,000 donors.” Of these donors, more than 2,700 have made five-year pledges to support more than 200 unrestricted funds across the University through the George Eastman Circle.

Since the Campaign’s inception, lead donors such as Eastman Kodak Company; University Trustee Robert B. Goergen ’60 and his wife, Pamela; B. Thomas Golisano; Richard and Martha Jane Handler; E. Philip and Carole Saunders; University Trustee Thomas R. Sloan ’65, ’67 (MA) and Linda Sloan ’67; and the Wilmot family have provided transformational gifts that have propelled the Campaign forward.

Aquavella, a clinician and researcher in the Flaum Eye Institute, made his recent gift to honor the memory of his late wife, Kay, a nurse and administrator, who was committed to the establishment of the institute. The gift creates two new professorships in the School of Medicine and Dentistry: the Catherine E. Aquavella Distinguished Professorship in Ophthalmology and the James V. Aquavella, M.D. Professorship in Ophthalmology.

President Seligman acknowledged there is still much to do to effectively support our faculty, students and staff and to develop programs. The Medical Center is a major part of the University's overall campaign with a goal of $650 million, of which $510 million has already been raised. Among its key priorities are programs and research that strive to creatively and aggressively find breakthroughs that will treat—and eventually cure—many diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injury, Parkinson's disease, and cancer.

Student support (endowed scholarships and fellowships) and faculty support (endowed professorships) remain critical priorities, as well as a new Data Science Initiative—approved by the Board of Trustees in October 2013. The plans for data science include a new signature building and the addition of up to 20 new faculty members to conduct pioneering research.

To read more on the Campaign milestone, click here.

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Regional Campaign Launched in Washington, D.C.

On November 13, the University launched the Washington, D.C. regional campaign for The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

University Trustee and George Eastman Circle member Thomas R. Sloan ’65, ’67 (MS), vice chair of East Coast efforts for the Campaign, welcomed more than 150 University alumni, parents, and friends to an evening that allowed them to celebrate, reconnect with, and take pride in Rochester. Fellow George Eastman Circle member Ranny Cooper ’69, chair of the Washington, D.C. Regional Cabinet, built on Sloan’s remarks by highlighting the importance of building a University community beyond Rochester—through Regional Cabinets and the George Eastman Circle.

George Eastman Circle and Washington, D.C. Regional Cabinet members Marty Stern ’79, ’80S (MBA) and Diane Ambler ’71, co-chairs of the regional campaign, will lead the region’s efforts to raise a total of $14 million and build on its George Eastman Circle presence by surpassing 200 memberships by June 30, 2016. Under the leadership of Cooper, the region had already raised $12 million leading up to the launch.

Galen Dole ’14, a music performance major with minors in mathematics and psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences spoke on his eclectic coursework and shared ways he’s been able to use his education outside the classroom. Dole, a beneficiary of the Halee and David Baldwin Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, plans to attend medical school, after completing the Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year Program.

Eastman alumni soprano Adelaide Boedecker ’13E (MM) and accompanist Heather McEwen Goldman ’13E (MM) closed the evening with a moving musical performance.

The Washington, D.C. launch is the University’s fifth formal, regional campaign kickoff with its sixth, the New York City regional campaign, scheduled to be held in March 2014.

To see photos from the Washington, D.C. regional campaign launch, click here.

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Diversity Initiative Exceeds Goal, Pushes Forward

University Trustee Lance Drummond ’85S (MBA) (standing), co-chair of the Diversity Initiative for The Meliora Challenge, speaking with guests at the Celebration of Diversity during Meliora Weekend 2013

In a stirring oration at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall on July 4, 1852, abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, “The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.”

Almost 30 years later, the University of Rochester accepted its first African-American student, Henry Austin Spencer, and nearly 20 years after that, Susan B. Anthony convinced the Board of Trustees to admit women.

Today, the University's environment is comprised of students and faculty from many races, cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs.

The Diversity Initiative, one of the special components of The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester, sought to raise $5 million to ensure the University remains a diverse community with equally diverse social and academic opportunities. Co-chaired by University Trustees Lance Drummond ’85S (MBA) and Kathy Waller ’80, ’83S (MBA), the Initiative has raised more than $6 million and is still building momentum.

“I am deeply appreciative of the support from so many in the University community for this critical initiative,” said Vivian Lewis, vice provost for faculty development and diversity. “While we still have much work ahead, this success brings us closer to achieving our common vision of a University that reflects and celebrates the richness of diversity among individuals and groups.” 

Like most Campaign efforts, the Diversity Initiative has benefited from the generosity of several lead donors.

Elizabeth Pungello ’89, a George Eastman Circle member, established the Dr. Elizabeth P. Pungello Student Support Fund, which assists undergraduate students in the Early Connection Opportunities Program (ECO) program. The ECO program serves students from low-income, first-generation, and/or underrepresented minority backgrounds. Pungello has also established the Elizabeth Puhn Pungello Fellowship, which provides a tuition-free master's degree and a research stipend to outstanding ECO alumni.

Students have also received support from Martin Zemel ’63, ’65W (MA) and his wife, Laura Fulton. In honor of Martin’s 50th reunion, the couple established the Martin P. Zemel and Laura L. Fulton Endowed Scholarship, which will support the Posse Scholars program. The program, being launched in 2014, provides assistance to talented students with diverse backgrounds. Martin and Laura also support the University through their George Eastman Circle memberships.

Beloved School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty member and associate dean for medical education Tana Grady-Weliky, M.D., touched many students, residents, fellows, and faculty through her dedication to medical education, her commitment to women and diversity in medicine, and her passion for psychiatry. Following her death in 2011, colleagues honored Dr. Grady-Weliky’s memory by establishing a fund to support the Tana Grady-Weliky, M.D. Endowed Lectureship and Visiting Professorship for Women and Diversity in Medicine. The lecture is part of the Faculty Diversity Seminar Series and is held in January or February each year.

For the remainder of the Campaign, which ends June 30, 2016, the Initiative will maintain its focus on three areas: scholarships to support students from underrepresented populations; professorships to attract and retain underrepresented faculty; and funds for lectures, panels, conferences, and other programs that foster inclusivity on campus.

For more information on the Diversity Initiative, click here.

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Pegoli Installed as Inaugural Lobozzo Professor

Mark Taubman, M.D., Walter Pegoli, Jr., M.D., Joseph M. Lobozzo II, and President Joel Seligman

As Mark Taubman, dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry and University vice president for health sciences, often says, an endowed professorship is the University’s way of telling a faculty member they are outstanding.

The University’s exceptional faculty members are defined in different ways. For Walter Pegoli, Jr., M.D., you could cite the University recruiting him to be chief of pediatric surgery in 1997, after which a department was essentially built around him. You could cite his multiple honors and awards and inclusion in prestigious medical societies. The most telling example, however, might be little Hailey Coniber dressing as “Dr. Goli” for Halloween.

Pegoli, director of pediatric trauma at Golisano Children’s Hospital, has demonstrated excellence in every facet of his work, which has led to him becoming a beloved surgeon and the inaugural Joseph M. Lobozzo II Professor in pediatric surgery.

A ceremony on November 20 honored Pegoli’s extraordinary service and expressed gratitude to Joseph M. Lobozzo II for generosity that allows us to retain preeminent faculty members like Walter Pegoli.

“Walt Pegoli couldn’t be more deserving of this professorship. He is one of the great pediatric surgeons in the country who, by helping us recruit an extraordinary pediatric staff, has been incredibly important to our vision for the new Golisano Children’s Hospital,” said President Joel Seligman. “The Lobozzo Professorship has allowed us to honor and retain an exceptional surgeon in Rochester, and will continue to do so for as long as the University stands.”

Lobozzo is the founder and former chairman of JML Optical Industries, Inc., a manufacturer and distributer of precision optical components and assemblies. He has been a member of the University of Rochester Medical Center Board for the last 14 years and has also served as a board member for the United Way of Greater Rochester and the Catholic Family Center. Lobozzo, a Charter Member of the George Eastman Circle, established the professorship to strengthen a unique program for children in our region. He is widely recognized for his community support, philanthropy, and professional achievements.

Pegoli could be considered a philanthropist, too. Giving the smallest and most vulnerable among us good health and the chance at a long life are special gifts. Dean Taubman remarked on how fortunate Rochester is to have a surgeon of Pegoli’s caliber.

“One of the things we pride ourselves on as a University, a Medical Center, a community, is we can provide the highest quality of medicine for any need; you’ll never have to leave Rochester,” said Taubman. “Since the day that Walter started in 1997, he has made sure that when it comes to pediatric surgery, you can get the best here.”

In addition to his other roles, Pegoli serves as co-chair of the Golisano Children’s Hospital Executive Council and vice chair for clinical affairs in the Department of Surgery. His areas of specialty are neonatal surgery, non-cardiac thoracic surgery, complex gastrointestinal surgery, and surgical oncology. Pegoli’s primary focus for the future: establish a fellowship in pediatric surgery, ensuring there will always be an exceptional pediatric surgeon serving the Rochester community.

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Wine Auction Benefits Heart and Vascular Disease

Bradford Berk ’81M (MD), ’81M (PhD) and Stency and Danny Wegman toast to a record-breaking event

On November 9, the 13th annual Toast to Your Health Fine Wine Auction was held at the Robert B. Wegman Conference Facility in Rochester. Hosted by Wegmans, the Swiss Alps-themed black-tie gala raised funds to be invested in promising new ideas for groundbreaking cardiac research and approaches to cardiac care.

Every year, attendees’ generosity supports crucial patient- and family-centered care and research initiatives at the University of Rochester Medical Center. This year, the auction was chaired by University Life Trustee Michael E. Jones ’76, senior vice president and senior portfolio manager of Federated Clover Investment Advisors, and University Trustee Richard T. Aab, president of RTA Associates, LLC. With the help of wine enthusiasts and supporters of the Medical Center, net proceeds for the sold-out auction exceeded a record-setting $1 million.

“Thanks to our extremely generous hosts, Danny and Stency Wegman, Co-Chairs Mike Jones and Rick Aab, distinguished guests Sherwood Deutsch and Michael Misch of Wegmans Wine & Spirits, and our devoted sponsors, donors, and guests, particularly Bob Gordon of I. Gordon Corporation, John and Seana Holtz, and Constellation Brands Inc., we’ll be able to transform life-saving discoveries into new preventions and cures for heart patients across the region and around the world,” said Bradford C. Berk ’81M (MD), ’81M (PhD), CEO of the Medical Center and senior vice president for health sciences.

Discoveries and innovations by the Medical Center’s Cardiology Division have saved hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, the Heart Research Follow-up Program set the international standard for preventing cardiac deaths, and the Advanced Heart Failure Program ranks among the top five such programs in the United States, including the first team in upstate New York to implant a total artificial heart. The Medical Center also has one of only a handful of institutes in the nation devoted to heart research, the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute, where more than 100 scientists, technicians, and fellows explore new ways to understand heart disease and develop innovative therapies for patients.

The funds raised will count toward the Medical Center’s $650 million campaign goal in support of The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester. The Medical Center’s campaign is being led by Co-Chairs Richard Aab and Rochester businessman E. Philip Saunders and Honorary Chair Danny Wegman. Bob Gordon is serving as chair of the heart and vascular component of the Medical Center’s campaign.

To see photos from the 2013 Toast to Your Health Fine Wine Auction or watch a video featuring the story of a grateful family shown at the auction, click here.

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Celebrating Douglas Lowry

On Sunday, November 3, family, friends, and colleagues of Douglas Lowry, who served as the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean at the Eastman School of Music, gathered in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. The afternoon provided a tribute, a remarkable collection of memories and music from Eastman Philharmonia, Chorale, and Trombone Choir; the Ying Quartet; and current Eastman Dean Jamal Rossi.

Lowry passed away on October 2 at age 62.

While the gathering celebrated Douglas Lowry, the educator and the musician, it also celebrated Douglas Lowry, the man, with stories of humility, humanity, humor—and legendary pizza-making skills. Tributes came from many including Christopher Seaman, former Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra musical director; Ralph W. Kuncl, University of Redlands president and former University of Rochester provost; Joseph W. Polisi, Juilliard School president; Rabbi Sarah Messinger; and Lowry’s three children, Jennifer, Melanie, and Tim.

President Joel Seligman acknowledged cancer can be vicious and cruel, but went on to describe his friend’s indomitable spirit and his overpowering love of music. “In more than one meeting," Seligman said, “he composed music.”

A final closing tribute brought the many sides of Lowry together. As Lowry’s Geo was played by the Eastman Philharmonia conducted by Neil Varon, a montage of photos showed Lowry in moments serious and playful with students, colleagues, family, and friends. In short, celebrating the reflective, expressive, and transformative life of an extraordinary man. 

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