$100 million gift renames Med School

By
Thursday, February 1, 2007

Millionaire entrepreneur Warren Alpert has given $100 million to the Medical School, which has been renamed for him. Alpert’s gift – tied with a 2004 donation from liquor magnate Sidney Frank ’42 as the single largest in Brown’s history – will be used in part to fund a new building for the Med School, bolster scientific research and med student financial aid and endow at least two new faculty positions, University officials and Warren Alpert Foundation representatives announced at a press conference Monday.

“Never did I anticipate anything so momentous or remarkable as this moment,” said Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Eli Adashi. “This gift exceeds all expectations.”

Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 said the donation will dramatically enhance the 35-year-old Med School’s national reputation. “This gift essentially allows us to make up for a century of lost time,” he said.

Gov. Donald Carcieri ’65 and Providence Mayor David Cicilline ’83 both said they expect the gift to be a boon to both life sciences research and the local economy. “This will allow an enormous amount of investment in biomedical research,” Cicilline said. “The limits to that are virtually without limits.”

Kertzer told The Herald that University officials have already considered in general terms how the donation, which will be paid out over time, will be allocated. The Corporation, the University’s governing body, will discuss at its meeting next month how the donation affects the Med School’s strategic plan, he said.

“All the things we imagined in (the Plan for Academic Enrichment) – this allows us to do that at a higher level,” said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president. “I don’t think any of us thought we’d have a new Medical School building in our lifetimes.”

President Ruth Simmons was expected to speak at the press conference to announce the gift, but she was unable to do so because of a medical problem. She appeared briefly midway through the press conference but left the room shortly thereafter, apparently due to a nosebleed. Later, she was well enough to attend a luncheon for representatives of the Alpert Foundation yesterday afternoon, said Michael Chapman, vice president for public affairs and University relations.

Alpert, who is 86 years old and in poor health, did not appear at the press conference but was represented by his nephew and foundation president, Herbert Kaplan. “I was invited last week to meet the new president of Northeastern University, but I said I couldn’t go because I don’t have any money left,” Kaplan joked at the press conference.

Alpert’s gift is distinctive not only because of its size but also because of the relatively few restrictions placed on how the money should be used, University officials said. Alpert’s “understanding of the value of flexibility is unusual,” Spies said.

Alpert, who received a Purple Heart for his service in World War II, graduated from Boston University in 1942 and was a member of the first class of Harvard Business School. He made his fortune largely by distributing fuel and groceries to more than 400 gas stations and convenience stores along the Eastern seaboard. Alpert is the founder, chairman and sole owner of Warren Equities Inc., which he founded in Providence in 1950. Currently, the company is listed in Forbes magazine as one of the 400 largest privately owned U.S. companies.

Alpert’s foundation has previously given millions to Harvard Medical School and Mt. Sinai Hospital, but his donation to Brown is by far the foundation’s largest.

Neil Steinberg ’75, vice president for development and director of the Campaign for Academic Enrichment, and Larry Zeiber, senior associate dean for medical advancement, originally approached Alpert’s foundation last summer about making a donation. Steinberg, the former CEO of Fleet Bank-Rhode Island, said his relationship with Alpert dates back to Steinberg’s days as a banker.

Steinberg, Adashi and Alpert’s representatives continued to discuss the gift throughout the summer, and a formal agreement, which included renaming the Med School as the Warren Alpert Medical School, was proposed in October. Several sources indicated this timeline was unusually short, particularly for a gift of this size.

The donation was still not a done deal when members of the foundation visited Brown on Jan. 22. “I had the opportunity to talk to them about the ways the gift would enhance medical education, I think that was very important to them,” said Neel Shah ’04 MD’08, president of the medical student senate.

“Everything really came together in the last couple of weeks,” Spies said.

The Corporation’s advisory and executive committee formally accepted the gift and approved the Med School’s new name during a special meeting on Jan. 18, and a final agreement was signed in University Hall on Jan. 26, according to a campus-wide e-mail from Simmons. Corporation approval is required for all gifts to the University of $1 million or more.

Because an agreement has been signed and approved by the Corporation, the Med School’s name has already officially changed. The University will work up a visual identity and update Web sites and logos for the Med School “very soon,” Chapman said.

Kertzer told The Herald that members of the Corporation had no objection to renaming the Med School and were excited about the gift’s potential to attract additional resources.

“I thought someone might have said something, but they were very much in favor of the change,” Kertzer said. “The excitement was palpable.”

Alpert’s donation is a significant windfall for the University’s campaign to raise $1.4 billion by 2010. The gift brings the funds raised so far to $935 million.

The Med School and the Division of Biology and Medicine have expanded rapidly in the past several years through the Plan for Academic Enrichment, hiring an additional 19 tenure-track professors since 2002 with plans for at least 20 more. The Med School also plans to increase enrollment to 400 by 2011. Last year, the University acquired seven properties in the Jewelry District, where an expanded Med School will be located, Simmons said at the Nov. 7, 2006 faculty meeting.