September 8, 2000

Mary Jane Werthan, BOT member and VUMC benefactor, dies

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Mary Jane Werthan, BOT member and VUMC benefactor, dies

Being first was a pattern for Mary Jane Werthan.

She was the first woman elected to the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust and, when journalism was largely a male profession, she was a reporter for the Tennessean.

Werthan, 92, a longtime civic, religious and cultural leader, died Aug. 15 at her home.

“For more than 45 years, Mrs. Werthan has given unselfishly to Vanderbilt University Medical Center,” said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice-chancellor for Health Affairs. “She was a wonderful person – kind and intelligent, generous and caring. Her work in the community and her contributions to Vanderbilt will never be forgotten.”

“Mrs. Werthan’s many years of service and her significant contributions will leave a lasting legacy to Vanderbilt,” said Chancellor E. Gordon Gee. “We will miss her wisdom, wit and charm.”

After attending public schools in Nashville, Werthan attended Vanderbilt. Her fellow students elected her Lady of the Bracelet, the highest recognition given a female undergraduate. She was also president of the Women’s Student Government, the Women’s Athletic Association, her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi, and a member of the Honor Council.

She and her husband, Albert, whom she married in 1932, along with other members of their family established the Albert and Bernard Werthan Chair in the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and endowed the Mary Jane and Albert Werthan Visiting Lectureship in Dermatology. They also endowed the Mary Jane Werthan Chair in Judaic and Biblical Studies and the May and Morris Werthan Scholarship at Vanderbilt’s Divinity School.

In addition, they contributed to a number of other chairs and building projects for the University and made a major funding commitment for the Vanderbilt Institute of Public Policy Studies. The Mary Jane Werthan Award, endowed by Albert Werthan, is given annually to the person who has contributed significantly to the advancement of women at the University.

She is survived by her husband, Albert; daughter, Elizabeth Werthan of Philadelphia; a sister, Elizabeth Jacobs of Nashville; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Another daughter, May Shayne of Nashville, served as the director of the State and Local Policy Center at VIPPS, died in 1999.