Honoring a Father's Commitment to Education
In the political upheavals of the last century, J.W. Andrassy's family immigrated to the United States from Hungary, where his grandfather had been prime minister. J.W. had to quit school in his teens to help his struggling family in their new country.
But Andrassy didn't remain a drop-out. After a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, he earned a high school diploma. His children, two sons and a daughter, were impressed by his commitment to education for himself and, later, for them.
This year, the Andrassy Family Foundation honored their father's belief in education by establishing the J.W. Andrassy Endowed Scholarship at the The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
J.W.'s son is Richard Andrassy, M.D., the Denton A. Cooley Chair in Surgery and Jack H. Mayfield Distinguished University Chair in Surgery, Department of Surgery Chairman at UT Medical School at Houston and Surgeon in- Chief at Memorial Hermann Hospital - TMC and Chairman of the Board of UT Physicians. He said his father made education a priority, although the family was not wealthy.
"We were okay, but we weren't rich," recalled Andrassy, who also is professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland and a member of the Defense Health Board for the Department of Defense.
"My father stressed education for his children. And he provided support for our undergraduate degrees," he said. Richard Andrassy attended medical school on a military scholarship.
Laura Andrassy, executive director of the Andrassy Family Foundation, says of her father, "he was a fabulous guy, a loving, warm person. It was important to him for the next generation to move forward, to do more than the parents had done."
The Andrassy Family Foundation was created in 1995 and has focused primarily on environmental issues, children's cancer research and helping women in developing countries. Laura Andrassy's two children, Morgan Lee Norman and Gregory Norman, serve with her and Richard Andrassy on the foundation's board. They are involved in board decisions because, their mother notes, one day "the children will take it over."
In deciding which causes to support, Laura said, "you research it, you think about it. We sit around and talk. You find something that touches your heart." She also looks to her brother for ideas. When he suggested establishing a medical scholarship in their father's name, in her words,"we were all 100 percent for this one," noting, "there's a lot of good in helping young doctors."
The family wanted to establish something at the UT Medical School at Houston. J.W. Andrassy's stint on a ship in the war resulted in his developing mesothelioma in his sixties. He was treated for the disease in Houston. The Andrassy family still comes to the Texas Medical Center in Houston for medical care.
Margaret McNeese, M.D.,associate dean for Admissions and Student Affairs of the Medical School, said scholarships are essential to help recruit top-performing students.
"Our need for medical student scholarships is more critical than ever," she said. "With the looming shortage of physicians and the increasing cost of a medical education, we need scholarships to encourage our brightest and best young people to pursue medicine as a career. As a relatively young medical school, our institutional priorities have understandably been faculty and facilities. We are grateful to our leadership and to donors like the Andrassy Foundation for recognizing the importance of building our scholarship endowment base."
Richard Andrassy said the permanence of endowments was a key factor in deciding to establish the scholarship.
"I wish more people would consider this. An endowment lasts. I had chaired golf tournament fundraisers. We'd earn money, but it would get spent and then there would be nothing left. You lose the principle. But an endowment goes on." Reflecting on the financial challenges medical students face, he added that with support, "maybe they won't have to moonlight."
By Cynthia Johnson, Institutional Advancement