Wolff donates $20 million for biomed research

Puneet Kollipara
Courtesy of WUSTL Images

St. Louis businesswoman Edith Wolff recently donated $20 million to the Washington University School of Medicine to support biomedical research at the school; the donation will establish the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Institute and will fund research in the prevention, treatment and cure of diseases.

“The money is specifically earmarked to support promising research opportunities that depend on interdepartmental collaboration that lack other major sources of funding,” said Don Clayton, associate vice chancellor and executive director for medical affairs. “The whole idea is to translate basic research findings into advances in medical treatment.”

The institute’s goals will reflect those of BioMed 21, the University’s multidisciplinary biomedical research initiative, whose goals are to fund multidisciplinary research and rapidly convert discoveries in medical science into effective medical treatments.

“Mrs. Wolff’s commitment to the School of Medicine will enhance research efforts within many of our departments and have a profound positive impact on the School of Medicine’s research mission,” said Larry Shapiro, dean of the medical school. “I’m thankful for her generosity, which will enable interdisciplinary research that is so essential to progress in modern biomedical science.”

Mrs. Wolff and her late husband Alan have been involved in real estate investment and development for more than 60 years.

In the 1940s, Mr. Wolff founded a real estate management company, Wolff Construction Co., which built several shopping centers in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas in the 1950s and 1960s.

After her husband passed away in 1989, Mrs. Wolff took over the company, which continues to prosper today.

Mrs. Wolff could not be reached for comment.

She also has a long history of philanthropy, and she is no stranger to helping the School of Medicine. She donated money to the school for the establishment of two endowed professorships, and she also established a non-interest-bearing scholarship fund for medical students, the Edith L. Wolff Scholarship-Loan Fund.

In 2004, Mrs. Wolff received an honorary doctorate from the University in recognition of her support for research into life-saving medicine. With this $20 million donation, her storied relationship with the School of Medicine continues.

“Washington University has been very fortunate to have benefited from Mr. and Mrs. Wolff’s remarkable generosity over the years,” said Chancellor Mark Wrighton in a medical school press release. “Mrs. Wolff has always believed strongly in helping others, and she has demonstrated her belief in the promise of biomedical research to ease suffering and improve people’s lives. For that, we are immensely thankful.”

Her long relationship with the School of Medicine traces back to her friendship with I. Jerome Flance, professor emeritus of clinical medicine and the Wolffs’ personal physician.

“Edith is very knowledgeable about the need for and the potential of basic medical research,” said Flance. “Both she and her husband wanted to create a legacy that would serve generations of individuals.”

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