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Gratias Dono - An offering of thanks from UT Health Science Center at Houston

Published: March 01, 2009 by By Wendy K. Mohon, Institutional Advancement

Gratias Dono

Translated from Latin, the phrase Gratias Dono means “an offering of thanks for a gift.” Amid a setting adorned with representations of Leonardo da Vinci sketches meant to evoke the spirit of Renaissance Florence, where civic philanthropy was born, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) expressed its thanks to friends and supporters of the institution.

Held Feb. 4 at the Houston Country Club, the event honored volunteers and contributors who played significant roles in supporting the health science center during the past year. Plans are in place to host such an event annually. The dinner and program immediately followed a quarterly meeting of the Development Rodney H. Margolis has been a steadfast supporter of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston for more than a decade. His dedication to the university was honored during the Feb. 4 Board, during which UTHealth President Larry R. Kaiser, M.D., delivered his first State of the University Address.

The evening event was led by Vice Chancellor for External Relations of UT System Randa Safady, Ph.D., who noted that “all gifts matter in the most profound way,” as she introduced a multipart video presentation featuring Suzie and Phil Conway, Linda K. Finger, Harry Gee Jr., Charles W. Hall, Evelyn Howell, George M. Fleming, Rodney H. Margolis, Charles W. Tate and C. Harold Wallace. Each individual in the video explained how their involvement in the health science center influenced their lives and why they chose to support the institution.

For example, Evelyn Howell told of how she learned of the story of a woman who was helped by The Women’s Home to rebuild her life, yet who was embarrassed to smile because of broken teeth. Howell said hearing of that woman’s plight compelled her to donate to the UT Dental Branch so they might provide dental care and treatment to clients of The Women’s Home, a non-profit Houston agency.

The word philanthropy, of late Latin philanthrópia and derived from the Greek philanthrópos, means love of mankind. The spirit of benevolence and altruistic generosity was clear in every story relayed in the video presentation.

Gratias Dono - Gifts that change life. 'I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Being willing is not enough, we must do. -Leonardo Da Vinci

Also featured during the event were talks from representatives of each of the four main points of focus for the health science center: education, outreach, research and patient care.

Henry W. Strobel, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the medical school, spoke of education and the importance of private support to attract bright students and help them develop promising careers in health care and research.

Noting that education programs should not just teach rote facts, but also “produce students who are full human beings,” Strobel said, “the depths of the human spirit are something we grow throughout our lives.

“I give thanks for the opportunity provided me to be here and be a part of this institution.”

School of Public Health Dean Roberta Ness, M.D., M.P.H., discussed outreach programs that benefit from community support. She pointed out that programs such as the School of Public Health CATCH initiative (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) not only prevent disease, but can improve and extend lives. She credited national public health efforts with adding 25 years to the average life expectancy in the United States. Ness holds the M. David Low, M.D., Chair in Public Health, an endowment made possible by philanthropic support.

Paul Simmons, Ph.D., professor and director of the Centre for Stem Cell Research at The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases, spoke of his decision to move his research from Australia to the UT Health Science Center at Houston. He said he “got a real sense that people in Texas and particularly in Houston, have a love of philanthropy that is really unparalleled anywhere.”

Carmel B. Dyer, M.D., Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Chair in Gerontology, noted that being named to her endowed position and receiving further support from the Huffington family, allowed her and her team in the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at the medical school to secure government funding and other grants for their work.

“The recognition that the gerontology chair brings has helped us to be recognized as an up-and-coming division at the national level. We will always be grateful to Ambassador Huffington for the opportunities his generosity continues to afford us,” Dyer said.