$19.7 million donated to College of Medicine: “Largest one-time donation in UVM history”

President Tom Sullivan(Right) and Frederick Morin, Dean of the College of Medicine(Center), announce a $19.7 million donation to the College of Medicine. Photo by Cole Wangsness
[/media-credit] President Tom Sullivan(Right) and Frederick Morin, Dean of the College of Medicine(Center), announce a $19.7 million donation to the College of Medicine. Photo by Cole Wangsness

A $19.7 million donation, the largest in UVM’s history, was given to the College of Medicine by an alumnus.

Dr. Robert Larner ‘39 donated a piece of property worth $18.7 million in Los Angelesand a $1 million cash gift to UVM, President Tom Sullivan said at an April 15 press conference.

“It gives me great pride and pleasure to be able to announce today the largest one-time gift in the 225 year history of the University of Vermont,” Sullivan said.

Larner has now donated more than $34 million to UVM over the course of his life, he said.

“Let me say that again: $34 million, which makes [Larner and his wife Helen] the most generous donors in UVM’s history,” Sullivan said.

In 1985 Larner founded the Larner Loan Fund to help medical students pay for college, said Frederick Morin, dean of the College of Medicine.

The fund is now worth over $8 million, Morin said.

In 2012 Larner and his wife donated five Harvey cardiopulmonary simulators to the Clinical Simulation Laboratory, a program of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and the UVM medical center, he said.

These simulators are mannequins used to train students on how to perform surgery and learn about the heart, according to the product’s website.

These simulators can cost anywhere from $90,000 to $270,000 depending on their use, according to the the Reporter, the University of Miami Dade’s student newspaper.

“This latest gift will allow us to create the Larner Learning Commons, with the space and resources to develop the best teaching technologies and techniques, making us in fact and in reputation second to none in medical education,” Morin said.

The Larner Learning Commons will be a new building used to teach medical students, he said.

“This donation is going to help engage active learning with students,” he said.

“Active learning” classes will be developed so medical students work closely with faculty members instead of a traditional lecture style, Morin said.

“Students will work with faculty members and engage in an active conversation as opposed to lecturing,” he said.

This is a new “radical” style of teaching, Morin said.

“Imagine if I was trying to teach you how to use a computer and you had someone give you an hour long lecture every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” he said. “[and instead] you are in a laboratory where all of the computers are hooked up and we said okay solve this problem, run this program and we’ll help you if you get stuck.”

Sullivan described this as similar to a TAP class.

“It’s about the experience,” he said “There’s nothing quite like the learning curve in that and neuroscience shows that.”

Students will be put in small and asked to collaborate to solve problems, Morin said.

New facilities will be built over the summer to house these classes, he said.

The property donated in California will be rented out and the money generated will go to the College of Medicine to fund new classes, Morin said.

This donation will also help the University fulfill its Move Mountains Campaign, a goal to raise $500 million in four years, UVM Foundation CEO Richard Bundy said.

So far the campaign is ahead of schedule, Bundy said.