n the afternoon of September 23, a large crowd of faculty, staff,
students, administrators, and guests of the University of Vermont
celebrated the announcement of an estate commitment with an
estimated current market value of $66 million from UVM dual-degree
alum and Vermont native Robert Larner ’39, M.D.’42, and his wife,
Helen. The commitment to donate — the largest gift ever to a public
university in New England — capped decades of philanthropic support from
the Larners, whose lifetime giving will now reach $100 million.
To recognize and express gratitude for their extraordinary commitment
to medical education at UVM, the University of Vermont Board of Trustees
voted earlier in September to name the College of Medicine in honor of
Dr. Larner. The medical school is now known as The Robert Larner, M.D.
College of Medicine at The University of Vermont. When realized and
combined with previously announced gifts from the Larners, the bequest
will vastly accelerate the Larner College of Medicine’s ability to reach the
institutional goal inspired by Dr. Larner — to be recognized as second to
none for medical education worldwide.
The Larners’ gift marks an important moment in the history of U.S.
medical schools: the first occasion in the nation for which a medical school is
named to honor an alumnus physician and donor.
“Today, we stand at a defining moment in the history of this great
university as we celebrate the goal we’ve shared with Dr. Larner for years — to
be recognized as second to none in medical education,” said Tom Sullivan,
president of the University of Vermont. “We remain in awe of how he
embraces philanthropy. His love for humanity, and his desire to provide
long-term endowment funding, will greatly enhance medical education
at UVM — and by extension will elevate medical care for patients in
Vermont and worldwide who are treated by those trained here — for many
generations to come.”
The historic gift announcement was made
to a large crowd gathered outside the
entrance to the Larner College of Medicine
with more than 150 medical students in
their white coats standing behind the
speakers at the podium. The students’
presence demonstrated their profound
gratitude to the Larners and acknowledged
the pivotal role that endowment gifts make
in the excellence and long-term growth of
the medical college.
Once the Larners’ bequest is
realized, approximately 95 percent of their
lifetime giving will be secured endowment
funding, so their giving will generate
roughly $4 million annually to ensure
that The Robert Larner, M.D. College
of Medicine remains at the forefront of
medical education for generations to come.
For many years Dr. Larner has
supported innovation in medical education
at UVM, and this gift will accelerate the
transformation underway at the College.
The data are clear that engaging students
in active learning is superior to providing
passive lectures for teaching science,
especially so for women and minorities.
With this data in mind, the College has
been moving away from lecture-based
courses and toward team-based learning,
simulation, flipped classrooms, and
other engaged learning activities. Recent
initiatives include digitizing the entire
curriculum, creating new innovative
classrooms that facilitate active learning,
building an enhanced simulation center
to help students learn clinical skills, and
recruiting an endowed Professor of Medical
Education to lead the Teaching Academy.
“This is a joyful day of recognition
of an alumnus of the College of Medicine
and his amazing act of generosity,”
said Dean Rick Morin. “This gift is
the culmination of a commitment
that Dr. Larner made to me in his den
several years ago, and it is now our
awesome responsibility to deliver on our
commitment by using his gift to ensure
our students receive — in his words —
a medical education second to none.”