Bob and Marge Alpern

Bob and Marge Alpern | Gregory Fox

 Michigan Medicine Health Syste-Wide

Alperns Launch Stem Cell Fund

Gift will aid scientists’ efforts in all types of stem cell research.


The Medical School and the Center for Stem Cell Biology have received a significant gift to fund broader opportunities for stem cell research at the U-M. The Robert and Marge Alpern Stem Cell Research Fund is designed to encourage both embryonic and tissue-specific (adult) stem cell research by offering scientists University-wide an additional resource for studies in this fast-growing field.

The fund’s creators, Robert and Marge Alpern of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, say they want to help the U-M retain and build upon its talented cadre of stem cell researchers and attract others to the field, which holds promise for treatments for many medical conditions and diseases.

The Alperns say their goal is for the University to support stem cell research with the greatest potential for increasing our understanding of fundamental stem cell biology as well as the potential for treating human disease. They view the use of stem cells as one of the most important advances in the history of medicine.

“Because we live in a democratic country with a long and proud history of openness and freedom, we wish to personally support the important research on stem cells in the face of the political restrictions placed on it by both the federal and state governments,” the Alperns say.

The Alperns and U-M officials envision the fund as a catalyst to motivate other donors to help the U-M continue to build on its strong record in stem cell research. Anyone wishing to support stem cell research can contribute to the fund.

“We are extremely grateful to Bob and Marge for both their amazing vision and incredibly generous support in providing this seminal gift specifically for stem cell research,” says James Douglas Engel, Ph.D., the G. Carl Huber Professor of Developmental Biology and chair of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology. The department includes the Michigan Center for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research, which receives federal funds for research using federally approved embryonic stem cell lines.

“This gift that creates the Alpern Fund provides a beacon of hope for millions of individuals who suffer from devastating diseases that might be eliminated by novel treatments we believe will emerge from stem cell research,” Engel says. “This gift is all the more impressive because it is not restricted by current politics: Bob and Marge wish for the gift to be used to promote the very best stem cell research we can identify, regardless of whether it is on embryonic or adult stem cells.”

The Alperns have made other large gifts to the U-M for complementary and integrative medicine and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. They are both 1942 graduates of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. —Anne Rueter

To learn more about making a gift to the fund, visit and select “Alpern Stem Cell Research Fund,” or contact Anne Cooper, Office of Medical Development, at (734) 998-7707 or [email protected].


Edwin and Mary Meader

Edwin and Mary Meader

Professorship Honors Depression Center Executive Director

A $2 million gift from Mary Upjohn Meader of Kalamazoo, Michigan, will establish the John F. Greden, M.D., Professorship in Depression and Clinical Neuroscience in the Department of Psychiatry and the Comprehensive Depression Center.

The gift honors Depression Center founder John Greden for his personal contributions as a compassionate physician, an imaginative researcher and educator, and a national leader in improving our understanding of depression and related disorders, and reducing the societal stigma they often carry. Greden, who served as chair of the Department of Psychiatry from 1985 to 2007 and continues his role as executive director of the Depression Center, holds the Rachel Upjohn Professorship in Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, also established by Meader and her husband, Edwin, in 1997. Edwin Meader died on February 1, 2007, and Mary Meader died on March 16 of this year at the age of 91.



Recent Gifts to the Health System

Thomas E. Allen of Royal Oak, Michigan, plans a bequest to the University which will divide a gift from his estate between the Depression Center and the School of Music, Theatre and Dance. Allen earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from the U-M, as well as a master’s in business administration. His gift to the Depression Center will support research and treatments for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Robert J. Fisher (M.D. 1960), who established a charitable remainder trust in 2001 to benefit the Medical School, recently designated proceeds from the trust to support scholarships for medical students who have declared a specialty in family practice. Fisher practiced for more than 30 years before retiring, and now splits his time between Ypsilanti, Michigan, and Naples, Florida.

James and Margaret Hiller of Franklin, Michigan, have made a $100,000 gift to endow a scholarship fund in the Medical School. The Jerome P. Horwitz, Ph.D., Endowed Scholarship honors James Hiller’s uncle who served as scientific director of the Detroit Institute of Cancer Research, later the Karmanos Cancer Institute, from the early 1960s until his retirement in 2005. Hiller is president and chief executive officer of Hiller’s Markets, director of the Hiller Charitable Foundation, and a member of the U-M Health System Advisory Group.

The Southfield, Michigan-based Ravitz Foundation is supporting the Depression Center’s Outreach and Education Program with a $1-million gift to help the center achieve its goals of earlier diagnosis and helping remove the stigma often associated with depression and related disorders. The foundation has also established the Ravitz Foundation Professorship in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and the Ravitz Foundation Phase I Translational Research Unit in the Comprehensive Cancer Center, in addition to supporting the research of Valerie Castle, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases.

James and Doris Sisson, of Ann Arbor, have established the Sisson Endowed Fund for Research and Teaching of Clinical Practice to advance the development of sound clinical judgment based on astute use of the patient history and physical examination. The Sisson Fund supports the director of Clinical Foundations of Medicine, Robert W. Lash, M.D. During 47 years as a faculty member, Sisson (M.D. 1954, Residency 1958), professor emeritus of internal medicine, became an internationally recognized expert in thyroid disease and a dedicated teacher devoted to excellence in clinical skills.


“Big Blue” bike

Big Blue Bike for Mott

Built by Orange County Choppers, the motorcycle-building company of “American Chopper” cable television fame, the “Big Blue” bike pictured here will be auctioned on May 18 to support the new C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital. A gift from the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation underwrote building the uniquely Michigan chopper, created by Paul Teutul Sr. and sons, Paul Jr. and Mikey. The bike was featured on national television this winter on two episodes of “American Chopper.” For bidding information, call (734) 998-7702.


Hamilton Chang, Cheng-Yang Chang and Theodore T. Chang

Hamilton Chang, Cheng-Yang Chang and Theodore T. Chang | Courtesy of the Chang Family

Professorships Recently Inaugurated

Several benefactors, including Boston Scientific co-founders John Abele and Pete Nicholas, honored a distinguished surgeon, faculty member and administrator for service to the U-M with the establishment of the Lazar J. Greenfield Professorship in Surgery. On November 15, 2007, Professor of Surgery and of Molecular and Integrative Physiology Diane M. Simeone, M.D. (Residency 1995), became the first Greenfield Professor.

After caring for his wife during the final five years of her life as she battled Alzheimer’s disease, Cleveland Walcutt created a bequest to endow a chair in the Department of Neurology. His wishes were realized when the Lucile Groff Chair in Neurology for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders was inaugurated December 19, 2007. Professor of Neurology Henry L. Paulson, M.D., Ph.D., is the first Groff Chair.

A pioneer in antisepsis practices and an early leader of the Department of Surgery was honored with the establishment of the Charles B. de Nancrede Research Professorship in Surgery. The professorship, endowed by the estate of U-M alumnus William A. Spitzley (M.D. 1897), was inaugurated January 24; Professor of Surgery Yang Liu, Ph.D., was installed as the first de Nancrede Professor.

Brothers Theodore T. Chang (M.D. 1991, Residency 1996) and Hamilton Chang established the Cheng-Yang Chang Professorship in Pediatric Urology to honor their father, Cheng-Yang Chang, M.D. (Residency 1967), and late mother, Shirley S. Chang. On January 31, Associate Professor of Urology John M. Park (M.D. 1990, Residency 1995) became the first Chang Professor.

In 1993, the U-M received a gift from the Warner Lambert/Parke-Davis Company, now Pfizer Inc., supporting medical and scientific research in the Medical School, College of Pharmacy and Department of Chemistry. Four professorships were established in the Medical School. On February 13, the fourth Warner Lambert/Parke-Davis Professorship in Medicine was inaugurated and Shaomeng Wang, Ph.D., a professor of internal medicine, pharmacology and medicinal chemistry, became the first holder. —KB



INFLUENCE FOR 45 GENERATIONS. The prominent Greek physician Galen, born in 129 A.D., whose rational, systematic approach dominated Western medicine for centuries, is shown using heated cups to draw blood to the surface in preparation for blood-letting, which Galen advocated for many ills.


THE CHEMIST WHO TRANSFORMED MEDICINE. The 19th century French chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur observes a specially-crafted glass container that he used to debunk the theory that microbes appear by “spontaneous generation.” His wife, Marie, watches in the background.


MEDICINE BECOMES A SCIENCE. The Greek physician Hippocrates of Cos, born circa 460 B.C., is considered a founding father of medicine, and a key figure in medicine’s development as a profession and a systemic science separate from others.


SMALLPOX IS STEMMED. Edward Jenner, a rural English doctor, is shown injecting patient James Phipps with the first Western vaccine — the cowpox vaccine to protect against smallpox — in 1796.


THE “LITTLE ANIMALS.” Antonie von Leeuwenhoek is depicted exploring the microscopic world through handmade lenses; the 17th century Dutch scientist was the first to report what we now know as protozoa and bacteria (which he called “animacules”).

A Gift of Art and History

Medical paintings from Pfizer ‘a remarkable product of their time’


Pfizer Inc. has given the U-M 45 paintings by Michigan artist Robert Thom, commissioned more than 50 years ago by the Michigan-based pharmaceutical firm Parke-Davis. The oil-on-masonite paintings, depicting great moments in medical history from ancient Egypt to 20th century United States, were acquired by Pfizer in 2000 as part of its acquisition of Warner Lambert, which had acquired Parke-Davis in 1970.

The series was formally titled “A History of Medicine in Pictures,” and many of the paintings were published as individual plates in magazines, as lithographs, and in book form as Great Moments in Medicine.

“These works hold historical and cultural significance for the entire field of medicine, and special significance for our institution because of the artist’s ties to our state,” says Robert Kelch, M.D., U-M executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of the Health System. “In fact, when I graduated from the U-M Medical School, each of us received a book of reproductions of these very paintings, which I’ve kept to this day.”

James Steward, director of the U-M Museum of Art, adds, “These paintings are a remarkable product of their time. … They speak powerfully to how all art is shaped by its historical context, and do so in ways that offer tremendous interest for viewers and scholars in the 21st century.” Thom researched each work meticulously and traveled to many of the sites depicted. It’s estimated that he traveled nearly 250,000 miles through North America and Europe during his research for the series.

Thom was born in 1915 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and spent much of his adult life in the Detroit area. He and his wife died in a 1979 car accident in Alma, Michigan, while visiting the state from their new home in Dallas, Texas.

A separate gift from Al and Collette Kessel will help fund hanging the paintings around the medical campus. The Kessels divide their time between Naples, Florida, and Petoskey, Michigan. —KARA GAVIN