Kellogg Eye Center

Development News

Philanthropic Vision

Supporting research to advance treatment and prevention of the world's second-leading cause of blindness

Reporting by Margaretann Cross

Fall-Winter 2015
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Diagnosed with glaucoma as a young adult, Jerome Jacobson’s vision presented daily struggles throughout his life. But he did not let it stop him from building a distinguished career as an economist for companies in Michigan and the Washington, D.C., area.

Jacobson deeply appreciated the care he received from the University of Michigan Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and at the U-M Kellogg Eye Center. When he returned to Washington after living in Michigan for many years, he flew back to the center for regular checkups. He often told friends that Paul R. Lichter, M.D., his ophthalmologist, founding director of the Kellogg Eye Center and a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, assured him that with proper management of his condition — through medication and surgeries when necessary — he would have sight on the last day of his life. And he did.

When Jacobson passed away, much of his wealth was directed to the Jerome Jacobson Foundation to carry on his philanthropic missions, including eye disease research and international ophthalmology initiatives at the Kellogg Eye Center.

Recently, with a $3.5 million gift, the foundation established the endowed Jerome Jacobson Professorship, which will support faculty members who study glaucoma — the world’s second leading cause of blindness — and the endowed Jerome Jacobson Vision Research Fund.

Paul Lichter, Paul Lee and Jerome Jacobson
PARTNERS IN ADVANCING EYE DISEASE TREATMENT Left to right: Paul Lichter, Paul Lee and Jerome Jacobson

The professorship will fund the work of a faculty member pursuing innovative areas of research to find new treatments and, eventually, cures and prevention of glaucoma, says Paul Lee, M.D., the F. Bruce Fralick Professor of Ophthalmology, director of the Kellogg Eye Center and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.

“We have many treatments that can stop or slow the worsening of the disease, but we currently don’t have any cures or prevention,” Lee says. “If we can better understand the mechanisms of the disease, we can create more targeted or personalized therapies for people so they can have the best possible outcomes with the least amount of side effects. We hope one day we’ll be able to not only stop the disease from getting worse, but to potentially reverse the damage so people can see again, and then ultimately prevent glaucoma altogether.”

The Jerome Jacobson Vision Research Fund will be used to help fund high-risk, high-reward projects to advance understanding and treatment of eye disease. It will also allow faculty members to collaborate with other scientists across the U-M as well as institutions around the world.

It was Jacobson’s hope that his philanthropic efforts could help the Kellogg Eye Center continue to make strides toward eventually conquering glaucoma, as well as other potentially blinding eye conditions.

“Mr. Jacobson was a brilliant individual with wide philanthropic interests,” says Lichter, who, over the years, developed a friendship with Jacobson. “Mr. Jacobson became committed to supporting glaucoma research aimed at eventually helping to cure glaucoma and, in the meantime, to devise better treatments. We are very grateful for the confidence he showed in the Kellogg Eye Center that has led to this extraordinarily generous gift.”

Top photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography