(Photo: Peter Blacksberg)
The Larner College of Medicine lost one of its most steadfast and consequential supporters with the passing of Helen Moray Larner on November 2, 2020, at her home in Woodland Hills, Calif. She was 94.
Born in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1925, Helen and her family moved to California in the 1940s. Her family recounts that, far from her familiar Brooklyn, Helen left her suitcases packed for two weeks upon arrival. Then, she settled in for life. The daughter of immigrants, Helen became a skilled bookkeeper. She married pharmacist Saul Hann in 1945. After the war, they worked in a drug store together, with Helen keeping the books and running the cosmetics counter. They later purchased a drugstore in the San Fernando Valley, and then two other drugstores in Oxnard and Santa Barbara, Calif., respectively.
Saul Hann passed away in 1971 and Helen sold the drugstores. Not long after, she met a new love of her life, Robert Larner, M.D. After a brief courtship, they married.
Together the Larners ran a successful property management firm for over 40 years. That success, and years of prudent real estate investment, built a financial base that allowed them to pursue their passion -- the support of medical students and the fostering of medical education at Dr. Larner's alma mater, the place that he credited with changing his life. Over the years, the Larners helped thousands of students through the Larner Loan Fund. They also underwrote the building of the UVM Clinical simulation Laboratory, the renovation of teaching spaces at the College to accommodate active learning methods, and the creation of nation’s first endowed professorship in medical education. In 2016, a landmark gift that brought their total philanthropy to the College to the $100 million level prompted the naming of the institution in honor of Dr. Larner.
Helen Larner was an enthusiastic partner in all these endeavors, and cared deeply about the College's mission to educate the next generation of physicians. Today, a portrait of Robert and Helen Larner hangs in the College's Hoehl Gallery. Her generosity and that of her husband will continue to benefit this institution and its students, faculty, and staff for decades to come.