Blue Ribbon Task Force
“FORSAN ET HAEC OLIM MEMINISSE IUVABIT”
(As time goes by it may well be pleasant for us to remember these things) Vergil’s Aeneid, 1.203
In 1874, during commencement exercises at Ford’s Opera House, a group of graduates of the University of Maryland School of Medicine gathered to discuss the formation of an alumni association. Leading the effort was George W. Miltenberger, M.D. (Class of 1840). Highly regarded for his medical acumen, Dr. Miltenberger was elected to the faculty as demonstrator in anatomy upon his graduation. More importantly, Dr. Miltenberger had served as dean of the medical school from 1855-69, during which time he witnessed the devastating impact that state fiscal reductions made on academic programs. He advocated a free-standing alumni association, supported entirely by financial contributions from its membership and immune to the ebbs and flows of state funding and politics. Dr. Miltenberger accurately predicted that, given the chance, alumni would relish the opportunity to control their own destiny and thus better support an independent and autonomous organization. In 1875, the Medical Alumni Association was born, and formal meetings began with the election of a president.
Over the next few years, the association struggled to develop its own identity as members were solicited for annual membership payments as well as philanthropic assistance to the school. In 1880, Dr. Miltenberger, now the president, scheduled additional meetings for the purpose of adopting a constitution and bylaws. At that time, there was no legal business separation from the medical school. Revenues produced through the association’s fund raising quickly turned into an issue of contention between the school and the State of Maryland. Thus, it became necessary for the association to establish secure financial autonomy. In 1893, the association formed “The Trustees of the Endowment Fund of the University of Maryland, Inc.,” a separate, legal corporation chartered exclusively to “receive, invest, and control at their discretion” funds raised by the association for the benefit of the medical school. The trustees’ independence would be threatened many times during the next several decades but remained intact. Finally, in the 1950s, a legal challenge by the state legislature culminated in a favorable decision from the Maryland Court of Appeals in support of the trustees’ absolute independence from the State, and this action was subsequently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The fund reached a value of approximately $35 million by the end of the 20th century and continues to function independently of both the association and medical school.
Membership in the association was bolstered when the Baltimore Medical College and The College of Physicians and Surgeons merged with the medical school in 1913 and 1915, respectively. The association realized it needed to convey mission and message to its newly expanded membership. Therefore in 1916, the alumni board released volume one of the Bulletin magazine. The Bulletin quickly gained acceptance as the central communications link between the school and its graduates and has been in continuous production since that time.
On January 9, 1929, the association announced that it was expanding its role on campus and filed papers to incorporate. The following day, association president Charles R. Edwards, M.D. (Class of 1913) signed an agreement to purchase the property at 519 West Lombard Street, located across the street from the medical building (as Davidge Hall was known at that time). To finance the $22,500 purchase, six percent secured bonds were issued to alumni, faculty and friends. Books, supplies and stationery were ordered, and a university bookstore was opened. A short time later, the association entered into a lease agreement to operate a cafeteria and lunch business in the basement and on the first floor. The building was renamed the Medical Alumni House.
Unfortunately, the stock market crash of 1929 and the depression that followed devastated the organization and its business. In March 1936, triggered by financial distress, the board announced that a petition had been filed for the dissolution of the incorporated association. However, a meeting chaired by Frank J. Kirby, M.D. (Class of 1892) was immediately held to re-establish the association as an unincorporated entity. Reorganized, the association would remain an active and influential force in the life of the medical school, although its business transactions were limited. However, the association’s student loan program, production of the Bulletin magazine, and alumni activities continued without interruption throughout this period.
The vitality of the association at this time was due, in large part, to the efforts of William H. Triplett, M.D. (Class of 1911). Dr. Triplett joined the board in 1930 and initiated several alumni programs and services. He was elected president in 1949 and, in 1954, served without compensation as the association’s first executive director. His involvement with the board continued through the 1960s. Dr. Triplett staged social gatherings in the Baltimore area and at regional medical meetings to keep alumni engaged in the life of the institution. In 1948, Dr. Triplett helped establish the Honor Award & Gold Key, an annual award which to this day continues to recognize graduates for their contributions to medicine and distinguished service to mankind.
By 1954, the aging medical building was in trouble. Fears circulated that the weakened floor of Anatomical Hall – the ceiling of Chemical Hall – was in danger of collapsing. At the association’s 80th annual business meeting, George H. Yeager, M.D. (Class of 1929) jointly sponsored a resolution with Dr. Triplett urging the University of Maryland Board of Regents “to pursue every resource toward the proper restoration” of the medical building. One year later, university president Wilson Elkins informed the association that the cost of renovating the building would exceed $240 thousand. Since that level of funding was not available from the state, Elkins recommended that the alumni association pursue the initiative on its own.
The association would have to move quickly to save the building. The school’s old library (which carried the name “Davidge Hall” since opening in 1913) across the street from the medical building, had been recently razed to make room for a new health sciences library. Would the medical building also succumb to the wrecking ball? Alumni began pleading their case for preserving the building as a national treasure and petitioned the board of regents to have the name “Davidge Hall” transferred to the medical building in memory of the school’s first dean. This request was granted in 1958. Dr. Yeager, elected president in 1962 (and who served as director of the University of Maryland Hospital from 1963-71), continued to advocate a more active role for the association in restoring and preserving the building. In 1967, association president John O. Sharrett, M.D. (Class of 1952) received permission from campus officials to initiate the establishment of Davidge Hall as a state historical monument.
The board mobilized alumni to take the lead in an extensive renovation project that would precede any declaration as a state monument or national shrine. In 1974, in preparation for the campaign, association president William J.R. Dunseath, M.D. (Class of 1959) had the association reclassified as a 501(c)(3) organization, thus making contributions tax deductible. That same year, Davidge Hall gained its deserved recognition by being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Legal incorporation once again became necessary to permit the signing of contracts and to limit liability. In 1977, the association filed the necessary papers and announced an ambitious fund raising campaign to restore the building. The effort would include an annual phonothon which continues today from within Davidge Hall itself. The initial campaign was successful in generating more than $1 million from loyal alumni and a $500 thousand appropriation from the state to bring Davidge Hall back to its original luster. In 1989, in recognition of the association’s efforts on behalf of Davidge Hall, president Theodore C. Patterson, M.D. (Class of 1962) executed a contract with the university granting (under certain conditions) the association rent-free dominion over Davidge Hall in perpetuity as well as other rights and privileges.
The association’s financial efforts and restoration activities on behalf of Davidge Hall extended into the 1990s. In 1997, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated Davidge Hall a National Historic Landmark.
The restoration project galvanized the alumni, and the association flourished significantly during the 1990s. Increasing revenues and efficient direction bolstered the association’s student loan program, expanded alumni and student activities, improved the quality of the Bulletin magazine, and facilitated continuing conservation and development of Davidge Hall. Rigorous business methods and prudent financial management and accounting techniques were incorporated into the association’s standard procedures. An operating endowment to perpetuate association activities was successfully established. By the end of the millennium, the percentage of graduates contributing to the annual fund reached an all-time high. Alumni and friends were contributing millions of dollars in capital and programmatic gifts to the school. The association’s effectiveness and stature on the medical school campus had become widely recognized.
Alumni Columns of Support
Like the portico of historic Davidge Hall, the Medical Alumni Association is sustained by eight supporting columns. These pillars represent the eight areas of greatest importance in preserving and enhancing the Association’s mission and must remain foremost in the minds of future leadership:
(COLUMN I) INDEPENDENCE
There have been numerous challenges for the association to overcome during its first 125 years of existence. Academic and political climates frequently changed as new leaders assumed key positions at the medical school, university and governing body of the university system. These shifts required the association to modify its role as the leading support group for the medical school. However, in doing so, the association never compromised its most coveted possession that Dr. Miltenberger secured in 1875: its autonomy.
Although designated an “affiliated foundation” by the board of regents, the association must remain legally, economically, and politically independent of the medical school, the university, and the governing authorities of the university system. The affairs of the association must continue to be directed solely by its independent board of directors. Although working in a collaborative spirit with the dean of the medical school and president of the university, the association remains unaffected by budgetary decisions and other mandates enacted by the legislature, board of regents, and campus leadership. The alumni association budget is funded entirely by generous alumni and friends through membership dues and annual contributions. Decisions relating to the distribution of discretionary monies and the levels of funding for programs and services must remain the exclusive domain of an independent alumni board. This level of empowerment is appealing to alumni volunteers and donors. In fact, for many prospective candidates, independent fiduciary responsibility is the deciding factor in donating money or seeking election to the association board.
(COLUMN II) OPERATING ENDOWMENT
How should the association’s independent status be secured for future generations? In the early 1990s, the board began a series of discussions focusing on long-term preservation, and there was unanimous agreement that insolvency was a major potential threat to the association’s well being. In an attempt to mitigate any future financial downturn, the board established, in August 1992, the “Perpetual Fund,” an operating endowment later renamed the “Passen Family Medical Alumni Association Endowment Fund.” When fully funded, the Passen Fund will provide total annual operating support for salaries and other general and administrative expenses incurred by the association.
It is critical that the corpus grow in order to meet the association’s expanding needs. In fact, resolutions have been passed stipulating that the fund must remain in an accumulation and growth mode until such time that the annual income generated by the fund can cover at least 110 percent of the reasonably anticipated annual non-programmatic expenses of the association. Until that time arrives, the capital of the fund shall not be invaded (except for board-determined dire emergencies); additional deposits representing at least ten percent of the annual unrestricted gifts to the association shall be transferred into the fund each year; and all income and gains generated by the fund shall be reinvested with the fund’s principal for moderately aggressive, prudent capital growth. The association’s bylaws have been appropriately amended to accommodate these provisions by official board and general membership meeting actions in March and May 1996, respectively.
Future association leadership must also remain mindful of preventing any future erosion of fund principal (whether by inflation or otherwise) once the fund’s income is allocated to operational expenses. When that time does come, the association will gain the unique distinction of being able to pass along 100 percent of all other monies it raises to support the medical school. Successful management of this endowment will enhance the association’s stature and guarantee its health and independence in perpetuity.
(COLUMN III) FUND RAISING
A flourishing operating endowment offers more than guaranteed autonomy. It can free up unrestricted funds for support of medical school programs and services as directed by the association. In order to assist the medical school in achieving its educational objectives, fund raising programs must continue through personal solicitation and direct mail appeals. The association must remain the primary agent on the Baltimore campus engaged in solicitation of medical alumni.
Since 1978, the association-sponsored annual fund has included a yearly phonothon, where volunteer medical students join alumni in Davidge Hall to contact graduates and solicit tax-deductible gifts. The program is supplemented by a direct mail campaign to reach those not contacted by telephone. Each year the association should strive for 100 percent alumni participation in both the annual fund and in membership dues. Dues provide additional support for expenses of the association.
When appropriate, the association should encourage alumni to donate unrestricted gifts, thereby granting the board the greatest discretion as to how those funds can be best allocated. Historically, restricted endowment gifts have been placed under the perpetual stewardship of the Trustees of the Endowment.
Alumni and friends are also cultivated for participation in the John Beale Davidge Alliance and its honors levels: the Silver Circle and 1807 Circle. Established by the association in 1978, this organization recognizes the school’s most generous donors – those who have pledged $10 thousand or more. Such major giving is critical to meeting programmatic and capital needs of the school. The association should continue to build membership at these levels and create new honors levels as needed.
(COLUMN IV) ALUMNI AFFAIRS
The association, which has always served as the primary communications link between the medical school and its alumni, must continue to direct and fund all alumni relations for the medical school. This includes (but is not limited to) maintaining the medical alumni database, sponsoring special events and receptions at local or regional medical meetings, and staging the annual Reunion. There is, in fact, no substitute for getting alumni back on campus. Five-year reunions have been a very successful tool in bringing graduates back to the medical school. The association must continue to encourage, direct and control all these activities.
Efforts must also be made to increase the flow of information about the institution and to keep classmates in touch with one another after graduation. In that respect, the association will incorporate new and innovative methods in advancing its mission. While publication of the Bulletin shall continue, the Internet and other technologies offer novel opportunities for communication, enhancing contact among the association’s membership and the medical school.
(COLUMN V) STUDENT ACTIVITIES
The achievable success of alumni fund-raising programs is largely dependent on alumni perceptions of their alma mater. Impressions are fostered from the first day at medical school. The entire medical school experience – education, support services, and environment – ultimately determines the level of moral and financial support a graduate will later grant to his or her school. The medical student body represents not only a future generation of medical practitioners, educators, and researchers but also the fundamental core membership of the association. The association must build the strongest possible bridge of identification and loyalty connecting current students to the affairs and purposes of the organization. Currently, medical students have ex-officio representation on the association board and participate in the annual phonothon. The association promotes and sponsors a number of medical student social and ceremonial activities annually for each of the four classes. The association must continue to take a lead role in an effort to improve the quality and meaningfulness of the students’ medical school experience.
(COLUMN VI) STUDENT LOAN PROGRAM
At the time of this writing, the association already has allocated more than $500 thousand to its no-interest and low-interest student loan program, but student aid must be increased. No student should ever be denied admission, nor should one be forced to defer or delay advancing toward graduation, due to financial distress. It is the ultimate goal of the association to augment its student loan assistance program to provide necessary tuition aid to any needy student in good academic standing. Unique among medical schools, such a program should allow the University of Maryland to attract and retain the very best physician candidates, regardless of financial status.
(COLUMN VII) BOARD PROFILE
Programs and services for both medical school alumni and students must expand to maximize participation among the association’s membership. The alumni association board of directors sets the tone for all of these efforts. In addition to having the ultimate authority for final approval of all financial matters and all committee recommendations, board members are responsible for disseminating information to the membership. Board members serve as advisors, fund raisers, volunteer organizers, editors, and goodwill ambassadors for the medical school. Graduates representing the entire alumni population should be encouraged to participate in association activities and to seek membership on the board.
(COLUMN VIII) DAVIDGE HALL
As the state-chartered (and appointed) guardian of Davidge Hall, the association must continue to lead all conservation and restoration efforts on behalf of the university, to insure that Davidge Hall continues to function as a medical teaching facility and the symbol of early medical education in the United States as pioneered at the University of Maryland. The board has retained the necessary services of a world-renowned historical architect to provide advice on matters critical to the building’s well-being. Davidge Hall will certainly continue to require extensive preservation efforts, and the funding requirements will be substantial.
In addition, the association is the owner of the Bowers Collection of Medical Artifacts, located throughout Davidge Hall. This priceless collection of portraits, anatomical renderings, busts, literary works and medical instruments dates back to the early days of medicine in Maryland, providing historical information about the school, its faculty and alumni. The association also possesses a large quantity of other historically-significant medical artifacts in archival storage. These artifacts need to be properly catalogued and displayed, establishing Davidge Hall as a first-rate medical museum. An endowment fund already established for the ongoing maintenance of the collection should continue to be enhanced and applied toward the conservation of artifacts on display and in storage.
The association shall continue to maintain its business offices within Davidge Hall and shall direct and control utilization of the building as stipulated in its 1989 agreement with the university. Davidge Hall continues to be the jewel on campus, and the association will remain vigilant in proudly protecting it.
” I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving . . . we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” Oliver Wendell Holmes, M.D.
Proposed by the Blue Ribbon Task Force and accepted by the Board of Directors, March 14, 2000