$10M matching gift from anonymous donor aims to expand endowed professorships in medicine, engineering

Three years ago, an anonymous donor challenged Case Western Reserve supporters to help endow 10 professorships each at the university’s medical and engineering schools. 

By committing to half of the amount required ($1 million), donors would have the opportunity to name the professorship the gift helped create.

That effort went so well that last month President Eric W. Kaler announced the donor added another $10 million to the original $20 million commitment.

“Ultimately, our students benefit from gifts like this,” President Kaler told alumni at a homecoming luncheon, “and they’re the reason why we’re here, after all.”

When matched by other donors, the additional dollars will support five additional endowed professorships at the School of Medicine, and professorships or fellowships at Case School of Engineering.

“Faculty expertise and cutting-edge research are among the hallmarks of the world’s most renowned research universities,” said the anonymous donor, an alumnus of both schools. “Case Western Reserve embodies both. Through this challenge, I hope to inspire others to advance the opportunities for teaching and research in the specialties most important to them.” 

Just a week before the anonymous donor’s announcement, alumnus Kevin Kranzusch (CWR ‘90) allocated $2 million from a larger gift to establish two such professorships in Case School of Engineering’s Department of Computer and Data Sciences. The Kevin J. Kranzusch Professorships will expand the opportunities for collaborative research and teaching within the department and into areas of the university that will benefit from a deeper understanding and application of data sciences.

Those professorships are just one example of the wider impact the anonymous donor’s gift will have on the two schools and the university.

“The Case School of Engineering is grateful for this incredible gift,” said Venkataramanan “Ragu” Balakrishnan, the Charles H. Phipps Dean of the engineering school. “Support of this magnitude is an invaluable representation of the donor’s belief and trust in the future of our school, and helps us to continue our mission of advancing transformative research initiatives while also providing best-in-class education.”

Endowed professorships are among the highest honors faculty can receive, and also provide resources to support research and other academic endeavors. 

Through the anonymous gift, Carl Asseff, a medical doctor who also holds degrees in law and business, seized the opportunity to leverage the match into a named professorship—his second at the university.

The most recent holder of his endowed professorship is Erin Gentry Lamb, the Carl F. Asseff, MD, MBA, JD, Designated Professor in Medical Humanities. In her role, Lamb works with School of Medicine students to develop their skills in contextual awareness and critical thinking, their view of social justice as central to medicine, and their capacity for compassion, empathy, considering alternative perspectives, and tolerating ambiguity.

Lamb recognizes the impact of the Asseff Professorship on the university’s ability to graduate students with a deeper understanding of patients’ needs and the complex environments in which they will be delivering care. 

“This investment in doctor-patient relationships leads to better care for patients and greater enjoyment for physicians,” she noted. “Dr. Asseff’s establishment of this professorship enables students to immerse themselves in the medical humanities and apply these tools and values throughout their education—and beyond.”

Other professorships funded through the initial challenge focus on areas from geriatric care to brain tumor research, cardiovascular care to computer science.

“Nothing is more valuable to the School of Medicine than to honor our accomplished and aspiring faculty with an endowed professorship,” said Stan Gerson, dean and senior vice president for medical affairs. “Having a donor support a match for five professorships more than doubles our appreciation for our cherished faculty and gives them the visibility and recognition they well deserve.”