UMass Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Manning held the record for the largest donation to the five-campus UMass system for only six days before the Morningside Foundation donated $175 million to UMass Medical School.

The record-breaking donation, Manning said during a Tuesday press conference, brought him back to his days in high school when he was recruited to throw javelin on the Methuen High School track team.

“I got up and I threw the javelin and I broke the record,” he said. “And the quarterback of our football team came up a minute and a half after me and he threw it 10 feet longer, so I held that record for a minute and a half. So I stood on the field, concerned about that, but today I am absolutely thrilled that the Chan family made the gift that they did and broke the record.”

The foundation’s donation represents the largest unrestricted gift to the University of Massachusetts system and more than double’s UMass Medical School’s endowment. The donation honors the late patriarch and matriarch of the Chan family, T.H. Chan and Tan Chingfen.

In recognition of the gift, UMass Medical School will be renamed the UMass Chan Medical School. Its three graduate schools will be renamed: the T.H. Chan School of Medicine; the Tan Chingfen Graduate School of Nursing; and the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Gerald Chan, a billionaire businessman and investor, said the foundation seeks to make grants whose impact reaches beyond the recipient institution. The grant, he said, should “catalyze” a shift in public opinion, sentiment, commitment, and action.

“The present gift from the Morningside Foundation is intended to draw attention to the urgent need for supporting our state universities at a time when resources available to them lag far behind the resources available to the elite private universities notwithstanding the fact that it is the state universities that educate the vast majority of college students in this country,” Gerald Chan said. “We as a society must renew our support for the public universities now.”

The Morningside Foundation previously donated $350 million to Harvard University to support the then School of Public Health — now known as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. At that time, Chan said he was asked why the foundation invested in public health.

“The Harvard gift shone a spotlight on public health and the discipline’s importance to society. In the immediately ensuing years, both the quantity and quality of applicants to public health schools across the country shot up,” Gerald Chan said. “Six years later, the COVID-19 pandemic would prove that gift most prescient. Today, everybody understands why public health.”

Gov. Charlie Baker said the gift to Harvard University raised the visibility of public health.

“At that time, he really raised the visibility and the importance of investing in public health and boy, talk about being able to see around a corner with respect to what was coming next,” Baker said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic that would strike the nation and state six years later.

The medical school in Worcester is celebrating its 50th year of “educating future physicians, nursing leaders and biomedical scientists and as its Nobel Prize-winning research enterprise has grown to $400 million,” according to UMass.

The school is ranked in the top 10 nationwide for primary care, the Nobel Prize winning biomedical research enterprise attracts more than $400 million in annual funding, and the medical school ranks 21st in the nation, and number two in New England, said UMass Chan Medical School Chancellor Michael Collins.

Collins said the $175 million gift will be used in four broad ways: recruiting and retaining more faculty, conducting “groundbreaking” research, changing the course of disease history, and offering financial support to highly qualified and diverse students.

“For decades to come, the generosity of the Morningside Foundation and the Chan family will propel UMass Medical School to new heights and allow our university to compete with the most elite institutions in the world,” Collins said. “The gift is unrestricted, which is rare, and frankly, a dream come true for a university.”

Baker said the Morningside Foundation is “very strategic with respect to how they make decisions about where to put their philanthropy to work and they stay.”

“The likelihood that this is the last time the Chan family and UMass Medical are going to spend time with each other is zero, they will be constantly looking to have opportunities to continue to invest psychically, intellectually, and perhaps financially with all of these schools as this moves forward,” Baker said.

UMass President Marty Meehan said the Morningside Foundation does not make investments in anything that is not committed to excellence.

“And that’s where the University of Massachusetts is today, committed to excellence and our medical school is leading the way,” he said.

(Copyright (c) 2021 State House News Service.

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