Roy and Diana Vagelos Donate $50 Million for New Medical Education Building

Sept. 27, 2010Bookmark and Share

Columbia University Medical Center announced a major gift of $50 million from a respected alumnus of its medical school, P. Roy Vagelos, M.D., and his wife, Diana Vagelos. The gift will support the construction of a new medical and graduate education building, which will be built on the medical center campus and named in their honor.

Diana and Roy Vagelos
Diana and Roy Vagelos

The Vagelos gift marks the largest received for CUMC’s fundraising campaign. With its receipt, the campaign for the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) has raised more than $1 billion, making it one of the first medical schools in the nation to achieve this level of support.

“It is clear that whatever the benefits Roy and Diana Vagelos may have gained from attending Columbia and Barnard, they have given even more back to our university through decades of service and support, and we are enormously grateful,” said Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger. “With this latest demonstration of generosity, they are helping establish a new sense of community and campus life at our medical center in Washington Heights that is so important to our attracting future generations of talented medical students and faculty. Roy Vagelos’ understanding of the resources required to train today’s top medical researchers and clinicians, and his deep and abiding engagement with Columbia, have made him an invaluable partner in our long-term plans to enhance all aspects of life and learning at our medical center.”

A renowned leader in the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Vagelos was former chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. Inc., having graduated in 1954 from P&S. Throughout his career, he has been a stalwart supporter of P&S, campaigning to raise money for its programs and serving as a mentor for faculty, students and staff. Today he serves as chair of Columbia University Medical Center’s Board of Visitors, and he is also chair of the medical center’s Defining the Future campaign.

“If we tried to create the perfect volunteer for our medical center, we would try to invent Roy Vagelos,” said Lee Goldman, M.D. dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and executive vice president for health and biomedical sciences at Columbia University. “His and Diana’s generosity of spirit and support are truly inspirational. Generations of medical and graduate students will benefit from their generosity and vision.”

“This new education building will ensure that Columbia continues to produce superior doctors and researchers, trained in the latest techniques, as medicine continues to evolve rapidly throughout the 21st century. The building also will allow us to centralize key activities in a state-of-the-art facility that reflects our commitment to world class education and the quality of student life,” said Dr. Goldman.

Dr. Vagelos and his wife, Diana, a graduate of Barnard College, met at a party held by a mutual friend while Dr. Vagelos was attending P&S and she was a first-year student at Barnard.

“When I first came to P&S 60 years ago, the facilities were first-rate, as many of them had just been recently built. Naturally, over time some of them have aged, and new technologies and teaching resources are now required to provide the best modern education opportunities,” said Dr. Vagelos. “We are training the doctors who will deliver medical care, the scientists who will perform groundbreaking scientific research, and the teachers who will help train the future generation of physicians and scientists. It is important that their educational facilities are as exciting as medical science is today.”

“The new building will have the best possible design that is attractive, comfortable, and appropriate for the intense kind of education that our students receive. The formal learning space will have state-of-the-art electronics that facilitate the delivery of information to students. In addition, there will be space where the students can informally interact and work as teams—reflecting our new curriculum which emphasizes team-based learning. And there will also be space to relax and have coffee,” said Dr. Vagelos. “It will incorporate every aspect of medical and graduate education—updated in a modern, environmentally responsible way.”

This project is part of an overall medical center campus revitalization plan that will add green space, create a new front door to the medical school, consolidate student services, and renovate several existing buildings. The projected total cost for the entire project is $185 million.

“Sustainable design is an important initiative for Columbia,” said Amador Centeno, vice president of facilities management for Columbia University Medical Center. “The design of this new building reflects our commitment to reducing our footprint on the environment and our surrounding neighborhood in a smart, responsible way.”

A 1955 graduate of Barnard College, Diana Vagelos serves on the Board of Trustees of Barnard as vice chair of the board and chair of the Trustee Committee on Campus Life. She and Dr. Vagelos have an extensive history of generous giving to Barnard College and Columbia University Medical Center.

Dr. Vagelos received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1950. After receiving his medical degree from P&S, he completed an internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Vagelos then focused on research at the National Institutes of Health where he won scientific recognition as an authority on lipids and enzymes. He subsequently became chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and founding director of Washington University's Division of Biology and Biochemical Sciences.

In 1975 Dr. Vagelos joined Merck as head of research and in 1985 he was appointed CEO and chair of the Merck Board of Directors. Under his leadership some of the most important drugs and vaccines of that era were developed, including the statins for control of blood cholesterol and the vaccine that protects against infection by Hepatitis B virus which causes liver cancer.

Dr. Vagelos authored more than 100 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals and has received much recognition throughout his career, including numerous awards and honorary degrees celebrating his influence on national science policy, his contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge and biomedical research, and his commitment to the development of new, improved therapeutic options to better treat complex diseases. He is an elected member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to his current public policy and advisory activities, Dr. Vagelos is chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biotech company.

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In Memoriam

The University mourns the death of David Rosand, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History Emeritus, who taught at Columbia for 50 years. An expert on the Italian Renaissance and Venice, he was also project director for Save Venice. For more information, visit the Department of Art History and Archaeology website.

Milestones

Professor Rachel Adams, director of the Future of Disability Studies program, won the 2014 Educators Award from Delta Gamma Kappa, the society of women educators, for her book Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery.

Columbia Law School professor Lori Fisler Damrosch was named president of the American Society of International Law.

Associate social work professor Michael Mackenzie has been named a 2014 William T. Grant Foundation Scholar for his research on improving the lives of young people in the child welfare system.

The Record