Med School gift still more about ‘impact’ than cash

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just over a year ago millionaire entrepreneur Warren Alpert gave $100 million to the Medical School – one of the two largest donations in Brown’s history. Now, though most of the money has not yet come in, the gift has nevertheless had an impact on the University and the Med School, which has since been renamed after the donor.

The gift will go toward the erection of a new medical education building, an endowment for student financial aid and support for research projects, faculty recruitment and endowed professorships, said Larry Zeiber, a senior associate dean for medical school advancement.

“It is aligning really closely with the Plan for Academic Enrichment,” he said. “The gift really set the stage to strengthen or enhance medical education at Brown. Certainly the student financial aid piece is really important, and building a building … really will move the med school forward.”

But so far, the gift has had mostly non-monetary effects. “The dollars are not flowing yet,” Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Eli Adashi said. “I think a significant part of the impact has been on overall morale.”

Changing the Med School’s name “almost certainly provided substantial visibility,” he added. “The knowledge that these plans will be there to essentially ensure building a Med School building, supporting research and providing financial aid – that in itself has been very positive.”

Neil Steinberg ’75, vice president for development and director of the Campaign for Academic Enrichment – and one of the original solicitors of the gift – had a similar sentiment to Adashi’s – that thus far, most of the gift’s impact has been intangible. “The bottom line is, in a year, there is not much radical change,” he said.

Steinberg said the relationship the University has been able to maintain with the Warren Alpert Foundation and the increased publicity of the Med School were important impacts. “The most important thing is that we continue to solidify and enhance our relationship with the Warren Alpert Foundation,” he said. “After the gift was announced – and the naming – it got a tremendous amount of national publicity. It has given the medical school national recognition.”

“It gave the school clout it didn’t have before,” Adashi said.

Steinberg also said the gift will play an important role in aiding the progress of the Med School’s development. “It’s so the Med School can plan for the future,” he said.

Zeiber said the University’s agreement with the Warren Alpert Foundation set a timeline for the delivery of the gift, but he added that the specifics were “confidential information based on the gift agreement.”

Alpert, a graduate of Boston University and a recipient of a Purple Heart military decoration in World War II, founded Warren Equities Inc. in Providence in 1950. Shortly after making the donation to Brown last year, Alpert died of heart failure at the age of 86.

Though the full effects of the gift may not be seen for years, Adashi said it will have a great impact on the school. “It was a watershed event … I think it will change the course of the school forever,” he said.