2012 / April

Legacy Challenge Raises Nearly $20 Million for P&S Students

Legacy Challenge Raises Nearly $20 Million for P&S Students

April 8, 2012

The Legacy Challenge, which gave P&S alumni the chance to help current students and support the future of medical education at Columbia, raised nearly $20 million in combined planned gifts and matching funds.

The program began in 2009 when a group of anonymous donors agreed to match new planned estate gifts at one-third their value. Though planned gifts would not benefit P&S for several years, the matching funds help support scholarships right away. Under the leadership of P. Roy Vagelos’54, chair of CUMC’s Board of Visitors, the idea soon caught on among alumni and their spouses; nearly 60 had participated by the time the program ended December 31, 2011.

“The Legacy Challenge is among the most meaningful and tangible ways alumni can give back to P&S,” said P. Roy Vagelos, M.D., who graduated from P&S in 1954 and is the chair of CUMC’s Board of Visitors.

Planned gifts valued at $14.6 million generated $4.8 million in matching funds, including $3.9 million in new endowed scholarship funds. Another $920,114 will supplement existing endowed scholarships, and $170,000 generated one-time $10,000 scholarships.

A scholarship recipient during his time at P&S, Dr. Vagelos noted that many students rely on alumni aid. “By helping students fulfill their dreams of becoming leading physicians and scientists, alumni leave a legacy that will truly resonate for generations to come,” he said.

Attending medical school is expensive. On average, a P&S student will incur more than $200,000 in costs over four years at Columbia. Alumni who participated in the Challenge pointed to their singular experiences at P&S and the need to support future generations of physician-scientists as motivation for contributing.

June Wu’96 knows how valuable her training and experience as a Columbia student have been. Now an assistant professor of surgery at P&S, Dr. Wu remembers performing as a pianist with the student-run Bard Hall Players and as a founding member of the Musicians' Guild, formed during the 1992-93 academic year. She cites the broad availability of diverse extracurricular experiences for helping her to become a better physician.

“When you have many dimensions to you, it makes you a better doctor,” said Dr. Wu. “I think this is what makes P&S students so special—that they can relate to students on a personal level as well as a professional level.”