Journal Archive > 2001 > November

Extraordinary Philanthropy

Nutrition school receives a new name and a platform on which to grow

It truly is a meeting of the minds. The union of the Friedman name with Tufts School of Nutrition Science and Policy reflects both the career and values of Dr. Gerald J. Friedman and Dorothy R. Friedman as well as the mission of the nutrition school—applying the best of nutrition and medicine to improve the health and welfare of people around the world.

On October 5, the nutrition school was renamed the Dr. Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in honor of the remarkable gift the Friedmans gave to the school.

Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow and Jane Friedman, director of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman New York Foundation for Medical Research, who said that naming the nutrition school "is the most elegant way to honor my aunt and uncle." © Richard Howard

Dr. Friedman was an early believer in the role nutrition plays in preventing illness, and that was reflected throughout his career. The nutrition school's accomplishments in research, social policy and clinical practice resonate with the Friedmans, who believe in the value of nutrition research and the spirit of collaboration.

Why Tufts?
Jane Friedman, the Friedmans' niece and director of the couple's New York Foundation for Medical Research, notes that her uncle, a physician for 55 years who retired in 1992, looked at medicine and health in a far-reaching way. She believes that Tufts is an institution that reflects this outlook. "My uncle always understood that things in the medical world never stand by themselves," Jane Friedman said. "In most institutions, the focus is so narrow, [but] Tufts studies the entire picture."

Last April, the Friedmans endowed a professorship in the department of medicine at Tufts School of Medicine. They also have committed funds to create a research, education and training fund for the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine at the New England Medical Center (NEMC), the medical school's primary teaching hospital.

As testament to Dr. Friedman's belief that the fields of medicine and nutrition are not isolated, the nutrition school shares a research fellow with the nephrology department and is collaborating with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism and Molecular Medicine to create a common fellowship. The recipient of the endowed chair, Dr. Andrew S. Levey, chief of NEMC's nephrology division, also has an appointment at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA).

This familiarity with Tufts prompted Jane Friedman to look at the nutrition school as a possible recipient of another Friedman gift. The decision to endow the school was sealed when Judy Kennedy, director of research for the Friedman Foundation, contacted the American Dietetic Association Foundation and inquired as to which institution was doing the most cutting-edge research in the field.

The answer Kennedy received was to the point: "That's easy," said Mary Beth Whalen, executive director and vice president of the foundation. "Tufts University, without question."

Jane Friedman made the decision to direct the Friedmans' philanthropy to the nutrition school, noting that "naming the school is the most elegant way to honor my aunt and uncle."

Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow with Dr. Gerald J. Friedman when the two met in New York City in October. © Brian Lee

Two decades of science and policy
The celebration of this naming gift—the largest donation in the school's history—began early the morning of October 5 with a scientific symposium on Tufts' health sciences campus in Boston that highlighted the nutrition school's work over the last 20 years and demonstrated how nutrition science impacts policy.

As dean for nutrition sciences Dr. Irwin H. Rosenberg said, "This is a celebration of the naming and also a celebration of the concepts at this symposium and the relationship between nutrition science and policy."

The work in both the scientific and policy arenas was represented by Tufts faculty and by distinguished experts from other institutions. Some acknowledged how far things had come from the school's founding 20 years ago. "I started teaching early in the history of the school, when the school was just a glimmer in [former Tufts President Jean] Mayer's eye," said Alice H. Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Research Program at the HNRCA.

Vernon Young from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology pointed out that the science of nutrition is relatively young, and Tufts should be proud of the contribution it is making in the field. He also noted the challenges faced by the school and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach and the uniting of nutritional biologists, technologists and policy experts.

In fact, the symposium mirrored Young's charge to collaborate and to unite different experts as the participants were a blend of basic scientists, social scientists and clinicians. It was an expert from government, Elizabeth Yetley, lead scientist for nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration, who said there is a great need for academic institutions to help in establishing policy based on scientific insights. "The independent voices of scientists carry great weight," she said.

Said Eileen Kennedy, president of the Global Nutrition Institute, "The Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy is uniquely positioned to make a major contribution…"

Rosenberg said, "This endowment comes with an expectation from the Friedman Foundation that this is a school that will continue to be challenged by the needs of hunger, health and nutrition—and we will continue to focus our energies."

A school is named
Following the scientific symposium, it was time for the official naming. Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow noted that it was only the third time in Tufts' 150-year history that a school had been named. He added that Dr. Friedman would have been delighted by what was discussed at the symposium. (The Friedmans were unable to attend).

"Throughout his career, Dr. Friedman was passionate in his concern for basic science...and very interested in how one takes [scientific] theory and moves it to practice," Bacow said. He noted that linking the Friedman name with the nutrition school is particularly significant because the school is not only committed to great teaching and research, but communicating the results of this work to the outside world.

Jane Friedman thanked the participants for "sharing your knowledge, your enthusiasm and your wonderful work."

Dr. Robert M. Russell, center, director of the HNRCA, at a reception following the scientific symposium during the dedication of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. © Richard Howard

The celebration continues
Several hours later, faculty, staff, alumni and friends gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston to commemorate the naming of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and as Bacow said, "the extraordinary philanthropy and lifelong commitment of the Friedmans."

Another way to pay tribute to the Friedmans, Bacow observed, "is through scholarship." Fittingly, a Tufts doctoral student, Ann Yelmokas McDermott, N02, spoke about her Tufts experience. "At age 40, I was given a fantastic gift—a scholarship to the School of Nutrition Science and Policy."

McDermott said the nutrition school is full of passionate people with high expectations and so diverse it resembles a mini-United Nations. In her first few days at Tufts, McDermott said her husband would ask how her day went, and she would reply, "I met another genius today—the building is full of geniuses."

After Bacow presented Jane Friedman with two Tufts Presidential Medals for her aunt and uncle, she reflected on the gift in the context of the Friedmans' lives and the current world circumstances.

"Let me tell you about my uncle," Jane Friedman said, pointing out his concern and compassion for his patients. She characterized him as a lifelong learner: "My uncle the doctor was my uncle the detective." She spoke about her uncle's belief in the significance of nutrition and joked that all his patients received a diet for "what they did and did not have." Her aunt, Dorothy Friedman, Jane Friedman continued, was a talented recording artist "whose dedication to my uncle's career overrode her own."

To conclude, Jane Friedman read from a heartfelt letter she had written that described her feelings about the events of September 11. As a New Yorker who lives close to the World Trade Center, she said she was especially touched by the terrorist attacks and at this time, "it is especially important for us all to pool our resources."

What happened on that day was now another reason to give to the school, she said, with the gift representing "hope, need and necessity."