University of Vermont Mourns the Passing of Robert Larner, UVM’39, M.D.’42

April 26, 2017 by Ed Neuert

Robert Larner, M.D., the Burlington native for whom the UVM Larner College of Medicine was named in September of 2016, died peacefully at his home in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Thursday, April 20, 2017. He was 99 years old.

Robert Larner, M.D.'42 (Photo credit: Peter Blacksberg)

Robert Larner, M.D., the Burlington native for whom the UVM Larner College of Medicine was named in September of 2016, died peacefully at his home in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Thursday, April 20, 2017. He was 99 years old.

“Dr. Bob Larner’s vision was always to support medical students through their important journey in medical school,” said Tom Sullivan, UVM president. “He wanted to ensure that his investment would help them achieve greatness in the practice of medicine. His financial support and personal relationships reached thousands of medical students here at UVM and well beyond. We will deeply miss Bob’s wonderful support of our medical students and his love of the University of Vermont.”

“Dr. Larner was a Vermont native who never forgot his roots, and never ceased being grateful for the start in life that he found at UVM,” said Frederick Morin, M.D., dean of the UVM Larner College of Medicine.  

“On behalf of the entire UVM Foundation, we want to extend our deepest condolences to the Larner family,” said Shane Jacobson, the incoming president and CEO of the UVM Foundation. “I had the distinct honor and privilege of meeting with Dr. and Mrs. Larner on numerous occasions in my previous role with the Foundation. The Larners’ transformative investments in medical education at the Larner College of Medicine, and UVM medical students for many decades to come, exemplifies the essence and true impact of philanthropy.”

Robert Larner was born January 27, 1918 in Burlington, Vt., the seventh child of a Russian immigrant and his wife.  He attended the public schools of Burlington, and became a state champion debater in high school. Scholarship money he won through debating allowed him to become the first member of his family to attend college. He entered the University of Vermont in 1936, and received his B.S. degree in 1939, and his M.D. from the UVM College of Medicine in 1942.

After a brief internship at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Dr. Larner joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps and served during World War II in the Pacific Theater, treating wounded soldiers at Guadalcanal and Okinawa. After the war, Dr. Larner served a residency in Baltimore, Md. He then settled in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, where he built a thriving internal medicine practice that spanned 40 years. From very early on, he began making investments in California real estate, building close relationships with hundreds of small business tenants.

By the 1980s, Dr. Larner focused on ways he could give back to the place where his career began, and help foster the next generation of physicians. He created a fund to provide low-interest loans to UVM medical students. Today the Larner Loan Fund, through both low-interest loans and scholarships, has helped nearly 1,300 UVM medical students afford their education.

In recent years, Dr. Larner and his wife, Helen, who survives him, focused their philanthropy on supporting medical education at UVM. Dr. Larner’s interest in technology was reflected in his funding of the UVM Clinical Simulation Laboratory, and helping build leading-edge, team-based active learning classrooms to revolutionize the teaching of medicine. In 2015, the Larners made what was then the largest one-time gift in UVM history, which funded, among other things, the Larner Endowed Professorship in Medical Education. Dr. Larner’s work to advance medical education and foster what he called “the culture of giving back” was recognized with the UVM Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy Award for 2013, and in 2014 his family proudly accepted his honorary Doctor of Science degree from UVM.

On September 23, 2016, in recognition of a further commitment that brought the Larner lifetime giving to the College of Medicine to $100 million, the trustees of the University of Vermont announced the naming of The Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at The University of Vermont – the only medical school in the nation named for an alumnus.

“To his wife, Helen, along with the entire Larner family, we extend our deepest sympathies,” said Dean Morin.  “As his family has expressed to me, no matter how far away Dr. Larner was geographically, he always felt that he was a part of the life of this College of Medicine. His legacy of support for providing a medical education second to none will live on in the future of this institution.”

On April 28, the Larner College of Medicine will hold a Dedication Ceremony in the Hoehl Gallery in recognition of Dr. Larner’s extraordinary life in medicine and unparalleled spirit of dedication to the institution.