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Generous $1 Billion Donation Grants Free Tuition to Bronx Medical School: Ruth Gottesman’s Remarkable Generosity

February 28, 2024










In a landmark act of philanthropy, Ruth Gottesman, a 93-year-old widow of a Wall Street financier, has bestowed a staggering $1 billion to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. The donation, one of the largest in U.S. educational history, is earmarked to cover tuition fees for all future students at the esteemed medical school.

A Legacy of Dedication and Service

Ruth Gottesman’s connection to Albert Einstein College of Medicine runs deep. A former professor at the institution, she dedicated her career to the study of learning disabilities and literacy programs. Her late husband, David Gottesman, a protégé of Warren Buffett, left behind a substantial fortune, much of which now fuels this transformative gift.

Empowering Future Generations of Doctors

Dr. Gottesman’s vision is clear: to alleviate the burden of medical school debt and widen access to medical education. With tuition fees often exceeding $200,000, this donation ensures that aspiring doctors can pursue their dreams without financial constraints. Moreover, it aims to diversify the student body, making medical education accessible to individuals from all economic backgrounds.

“The donation is notable not only for its staggering size, but also because it is going to a medical institution in the Bronx, the city’s poorest borough. The Bronx has a high rate of premature deaths and ranks as the unhealthiest county in New York.

Over the past generation, a number of billionaires have given hundreds of millions of dollars to better-known medical schools and hospitals in Manhattan, the city’s wealthiest borough.”

“Dr. Gottesman said her donation would enable new doctors to begin their careers without medical school debt, which often exceeds $200,000. She also hoped it would broaden the student body to include people who could not otherwise afford to go to medical school.”

A Friendship Forged Through Adversity

Dr. Gottesman’s bond with Dr. Philip Ozuah, CEO of Montefiore Medical Center, grew amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Ozuah’s compassionate care for the Gottesman family during their illness deepened their friendship, highlighting the personal significance of this monumental donation.

“In an interview on Friday at the Einstein campus in the Morris Park neighborhood, Dr. Ozuah and Dr. Gottesman spoke about the donation, how it came together and what it would mean for Einstein medical students.

Dr. Ozuah described moving to New York, not knowing a single person in the state, and spending years as a community doctor in the South Bronx before ascending to the top of the medical school.”

“In early 2020, the two sat next to each other on a 6 a.m. flight to West Palm Beach, Fla. It was the first time they had spent hours together. They spoke about their childhoods — hers in Baltimore, his, some 30 years later, in Nigeria — and what they had in common. Both had doctorates in education and had spent their careers at the same institution in the Bronx, helping children and families in need.”










Honoring a Remarkable Legacy

Despite her immense contribution, Dr. Gottesman remains modest, initially hesitant to attach her name to the donation. However, Dr. Ozuah underscores the inspirational nature of her life’s work, ensuring her legacy of compassion and generosity endures.

“Nobody needs to know,” Dr. Ozuah recalled her saying at first. But Dr. Ozuah insisted that others might find her life inspiring. “Here’s somebody who is totally dedicated to the welfare of others and wants no accolades, no recognition,” Dr. Ozuah said.”

“Dr. Ozuah noted that the going price for getting your name on a medical school or hospital was perhaps a fifth of Dr. Gottesman’s donation. Cornell Medical College and New York Hospital now include the surname of Sanford Weill, the former head of Citigroup. New York University’s medical center was renamed for Ken Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot. Both men donated hundreds of millions of dollars.

But it is a condition of Dr. Gottesman’s gift that the Einstein College of Medicine not change its name. Albert Einstein, the physicist who developed the theory of relativity, agreed to confer his name on the medical school, which opened in 1955.

The name, she noted, could not be beat. “We’ve got the gosh darn name — we’ve got Albert Einstein.”

The Money

“Dr. Gottesman’s husband died in 2022 at age 96. “He left me, unbeknownst to me, a whole portfolio of Berkshire Hathaway stock,” she recalled. The instructions were simple: “Do whatever you think is right with it,” she recalled.

It was overwhelming to think about, so at first she didn’t. But her children encouraged her not to wait too long. When she focused on the bequest, she realized immediately what she wanted to do, she recalled. “I wanted to fund students at Einstein so that they would receive free tuition,” she said. There was enough money to do that in perpetuity, she said.

Over the years, she had interviewed dozens of prospective Einstein medical students. Tuition is more than $59,000 a year, and many graduated with crushing medical school debt.

According to the school, nearly 50 percent of its students owed more than $200,000 after graduating. At most other New York City medical schools, less than 25 percent of new doctors owed that much.

Almost half of Einstein’s first-year medical students are New Yorkers, and nearly 60 percent are women. About 48 percent of current medical students at Einstein are white, 29 percent are Asian, 11 percent are Hispanic and 5 percent are Black.

Not only would future students be able to embark on their careers without the debt burden, but she hoped that her donation would also enable a wider pool of aspiring doctors to apply to medical school. “We have terrific medical students, but this will open it up for many other students whose economic status is such that they wouldn’t even think about going to medical school,” she said.

“That’s what makes me very happy about this gift,” she added. “I have the opportunity not just to help Phil, but to help Montefiore and Einstein in a transformative way — and I’m just so proud and so humbled — both — that I could do it.”

Dr. Gottesman went to see Dr. Ozuah in December to tell him that she would be making a major gift. She reminded him of the lion and mouse story. This, she explained, was the mouse’s moment. “If someone said, ‘I’ll give you a transformative gift for the medical school,’ what would you do?” she asked.

There were probably three things, Dr. Ozuah said. “One,” he began, “you could have education be free —” “That’s what I want to do,” she said. He never mentioned the other ideas.

Dr. Gottesman sometimes wonders what her late husband would have thought of her decision. “I hope he’s smiling and not frowning,” she said with a chuckle. “But he gave me the opportunity to do this, and I think he would be happy — I hope so.”










Preserving a Storied Name

Notably, Dr. Gottesman’s gift maintains the integrity of the institution’s name. The Albert Einstein College of Medicine, named after the renowned physicist, stands as a testament to excellence and innovation in medical education.

A Turning Point in Medical Education

Dr. Gottesman’s extraordinary act of philanthropy marks a turning point in medical education, setting a new standard for accessibility and inclusivity. As Albert Einstein College of Medicine embraces a future free of tuition barriers, it paves the way for a new generation of diverse, compassionate physicians dedicated to serving their communities.



Source: New York  Times

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