He wanted his
gift to go to the Medical School...so that it could make a specific
Robert Brear never married, belonged to no church or social
clubs, and had but a few close friendships in life. So, last
winter, only a handful of people gathered in Detroit to bury
this quiet, private man. And yet Brear, a pattern-maker at General
Motors for 40 years, will be remembered for many, many years
to come. His name will be spoken by people who never knew him.
He will be honored not with black-tie receptions or speeches,
for these would have made him uncomfortable, but by the things
he valued deeply: hard work, diligence, and the chance to help
others the opportunity to make a difference.
Several months ago, the University of Michigan Medical School
learned that Brear, who never himself attended U-M, had left
his entire estate, nearly $4 million, to the Department of Neurology.
The funds will be used to endow the Robert W. Brear Professorship
By all accounts, Brear was devoted to his parents, both of whom
died in 1968. Says Brears attorney, John Nitz: I
asked if his gift was related to his own health, and he said,
no, it had to do with the fact that the Hospital had treated
his father treatment he greatly appreciated.
Dean Howard, a stockbroker for Salomon Smith Barney in Detroit
who handled Brears finances for nearly seven years, recalls
a mild-mannered man of extreme thrift and very high standards.
Robert Brear was an incredibly intelligent man, very much
the analytical engineer. He spent a tremendous amount of time
doing research, and he read a great deal. Every time he came
in he would have three or four articles on investing, and he
researched the University of Michigan just as closely. He chose
Michigans Medical School for his bequest in part based
on the standards and quality of the Schools work. Brear
was a person who found value in the highest of standards and
wanted to deal only with people at the top of their fields.
And he wanted his gift to go to the Medical School rather than
to the Universitys general fund so that it could make
a specific difference.
Its gratifying that an experience at this Hospital,
so long ago, could have had such a powerful impact and result
in such an important gift, says Sid Gilman, M.D., chair
of the Department of Neurology. The Brear Professorship
will be used to support basic and/or clinical research in neurological
diseases. Gilman, who is stepping down as chair, will
leave the Professorship open for his successor to fill.
Some measure the worth of people by the number of mourners who
grieve their passing. Others point to the richness of the memories
or count the things left behind: the houses, cars and artwork.
But Robert Brear was an unusual man who left behind one simple
thing: a future. A future of teaching and learning and research
and discovery, the accomplishments of which we cannot even begin
to measure. One hopes that from time to time, as he labored
over his investment ledgers in his little brick house on Romeo
Road in Rochester, Robert Brear smiled with satisfaction at
For information on making bequest gifts to the University of
Michigan Medical School, call the Office of Medical Development
and Alumni Relations at (734) 998-7705 or write to us at 301
E. Liberty, Suite 300, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.