August 7, 2014

Impact of philanthropy drives faculty members

For Vanderbilt faculty members Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D., Hal Moses, M.D., and Paul Sternberg Jr., M.D., the lessons about the importance of giving came early.

For Vanderbilt faculty members Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D., Hal Moses, M.D., and Paul Sternberg Jr., M.D., the lessons about the importance of giving came early.

“My parents were very generous,” said Casagrande, professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Psychology. “Being kind and generous to others was emphasized.”

Vivien Casagrande, Ph.D.

Sternberg, assistant vice chancellor for Adult Health Affairs and chair of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, recalls the early examples he saw at home. “My family has always been involved in philanthropy — faith-based, cultural and educational,” he says.

Moses, director emeritus of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, who grew up in a poor community in eastern Kentucky, remembers that even though the term “philanthropy” was not in his childhood culture, his family and others in the neighborhood made it a priority to help each other through hard times.

Hal Moses, M.D.

And all three faculty members say they make regular donations to Vanderbilt, and have for years.

“I don’t have the resources to give at the level of a Wall Street banker,” Casagrande says. “But the first decision is to be generous. How much stuff do you really need? And the next decision is to decide what to support.”

For Casagrande, her passions are biomedical research and education.

Paul Sternberg Jr., M.D.

“The way our culture is set up, if you think about the kinds of institutions it’s important to support, I think academic institutions are particularly important,” she says. “You want to pick something to give to that lasts.”

As a researcher, she knows the importance and impact of philanthropy on the research enterprise, and also knows that research is how advances in health care are made. There’s a simple way Casagrande sums it up: “I believe in Vanderbilt’s mission,” she says.

That is the point at which Sternberg says his decision to support Vanderbilt begins.

“My wife and I believe in [Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s] tripartite mission deeply,” he says. From his leadership position at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute, Sternberg has seen firsthand the impact of gifts, and that, he says, motivates him and his wife to give.

He points out that there are six endowed chairs in the department, there are endowed lectureships, fellowships and residencies supported by an endowment, and discovery grant funds available for pilot research projects by faculty and trainees.

“Every corner has been touched by the generosity of others,” he says.

As a past president of the Canby Robinson Society Board, comprised of some of the School of Medicine’s most dedicated advocates, Sternberg has also been active in supporting that group’s scholarship initiative, which seeks to allow medical students to graduate without crippling student loan debt, which in turn allows them to pursue career goals with less regard to maximizing income.

“As a member of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center community, we need to be a part of that,” he says. “The impact from giving endures.”

Moses, who was founding director of VICC and also is the founding and current director of the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at VICC, says that the growth and success of the Cancer Center has been fueled by gifts.

“Philanthropy played an enormous role in allowing us to come from nowhere to one of the top NCI [National Cancer Institute] cancer centers in the country. It was transformative,” he says.

Moses recalls that a capital campaign in support of the Cancer Center led to more investment in scientific research, and that investment was a key to VICC being named an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center — a designation placing Vanderbilt among the elite cancer centers in the country.

“That support is even more important now, because of diminished funding from the federal government,” he says.

And, Moses says, he discovered that the development aspects of his job as VICC director were fun and enjoyable.

“You get to meet interesting and good people, and fundraising is not begging — it’s allowing them to do good things with their philanthropy.”

As for why he chooses to support Vanderbilt, his answer is rooted in his life experience.
Moses was able to attend Berea College and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine because of scholarship support, and he believes deeply in helping support the next generation of scholars, researchers and teachers. Earlier this year, he was named to receive Vanderbilt University’s Distinguished Alumni Award.

“I was able to come to Vanderbilt Medical School, and that launched my research career,” Moses says. “I feel like I should pay back to Vanderbilt for what it has done for me.”