A Matter of Trust
It was 1970. At the venerable age of 120, the first medical college in the world founded for women was about to become coeducational. Understandably, the Alumnae Association of Woman's Medical College was concerned with preserving the school's unique heritage. Money — a great deal of it — was raised for a special trust fund to advance this legacy. Coeducation arrived, and in 1971, the trust became the Trust Fund of the Alumnae/Alumni Association of WMC/MCP (for the renamed Medical College of Pennsylvania). The donors' intention was clear: The trust was to be "operated exclusively for charitable, scientific or educational purposes in connection with, and in furtherance of, the education of women at the Medical College of Pennsylvania."
Learn more about the Trust Fund
This "furtherance" took a direct and effective form: innovative awards and scholarships for women, and targeted support of programs with similar goals. The Mary DeWitt Pettit Fellowship, one of the first initiatives of the trust, is a research fellowship for a female junior faculty member, to help her achieve additional credentials to progress in her academic career. As bequests and gifts added resources over the years, the trustees created new opportunities for women in the College. When Lila S. Kroser, MD, WMC '57, passed away, for example, the Trust began a travel grant for a female medical student, reflecting Kroser's interest in the Medical Women's International Association.
All the while, the Trust Fund has remained strong and viable during significant institutional changes, including the merger of MCP with Hahnemann University, under Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, and finally the merger of MCPHU into Drexel. The Trust's investments continue to be safe, secure and well stewarded.
To uphold this good stewardship, the trustees concluded earlier this year that the mission and programs of the Trust Fund would be best served by its becoming an integral part of the College of Medicine and Drexel University. A gift agreement, effective June 2, 2015, established the WMC-MCP Trust Endowed Fund, to be administered as part of the University Pooled Endowment. The decision was carefully considered.
"Becoming part of the institution will relieve the Trust Fund of administrative costs and responsibilities, allowing every bit of our money and effort to be devoted to our mission," explains Elinor H. Cantor, PhD, MCP '79, former president of the Trust. "We spent about six months working with the Office of Institutional Advancement and an attorney for the Trust Fund to make sure that the gift agreement would perpetuate all our programs and scholarships as they were defined," Cantor adds.
The gift of the Trust was commemorated by Trust Fund trustees, seen in photo (above) with Drexel officials, at a dinner at the home of Drexel President John Fry; (l-r, front) Diane Gottlieb, MD, MCP '88; Barbara Steinberg, DDS, former MCP resident; Donna Antonucci, MD, MCP '84; Johanna Kalemba, MD, WMC '69; Anna Meadows, MD, WMC '69; Navjeet Singh, MD, former MCP resident; Mary Coté, MD, WMC '59; Estherina Shems, MD, WMC '58; (back) Senior Associate Vice President David Toll; Amy Baranoski, MD, DUCoM '03; Elinor Cantor, PhD, MCP '79; Vice Dean Valerie Weber, MD; President Fry; Dean Daniel V. Schidlow, MD; College Advisory Board Chair and Drexel Trustee Stanley W. Silverman; Senior Associate Dean Amy Fuchs, MD; Senior Associate Vice President Donna Frithsen; Vice President John Zabinski; and Senior Vice President David Unruh. Three Trust Fund trustees were unable to attend: Drs. Barbara Schindler, WMC '70; Laura Helfman, MCP '85; and Angela Capo-Granata, MCP '86.
"The transfer of the Trust will allow us to continue the legacy of the alumnae and alumni of WMC/MCP with greater visibility, with the full support of Drexel University. Together we will ensure ongoing support for generations of women to come."
Although the Trust Fund is no longer an entity, the gift agreement ensures that its programs and scholarships continue intact. The Trust's board of trustees will become a scholarship and awards committee known as the WMC-MCP Trust Committee. Operating under the guidance of the College of Medicine's Office of Institutional Advancement, the committee will serve in an advisory capacity in reviewing fellowship and scholarship applications and award nominations. Alumni may continue to support the Trust Fund's scholarships and awards as they have always done.
The Trust's remaining unrestricted funds are being used to establish two new endowed scholarships: the WMC/MCP Legacy Scholarship and the Ann Preston, MD, Scholarship. Preston, an iconic figure among women in medicine, enrolled in the first class at WMC and later became the school's first female dean. Both scholarships are intended to support female medical students at the College whose career choice is primary care (including family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics) in underserved communities, with a focus on Philadelphia and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Over the years, the Trust Fund has supported not only hundreds of individual women, but also programs of the Institute for Women's Health and Leadership at the College of Medicine, such as Woman One, which provides scholarships for under-represented minority women at the College. The Trust contributed to the construction of the Legacy Center at the Queen Lane Campus, as well as ongoing support for the archives and special collections that reflect the history of the College and of women in medicine. It has also sponsored activities of the College's nationally known Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine program for women.
Now under one roof with the College of Medicine, the WMC-MCP Trust Committee will continue the mission of supporting and advancing the education and professional development of women at the College. "Although equality is preached, it hasn't really been totally achieved," observes Cantor. "We still have to do everything we can to support and promote women in medicine and medical sciences."
Honoring an Aunt and a '40s Pioneer
Dr. Vitanza, 1940
Robert Katusak and his mother, Connie, were talking about an endowment he created at the University of Texas at Brownsville, where he earned his MBA. The conversation turned to his mother's aunt and namesake, Constance Vitanza, MD, WMC '40. The daughter of Italian immigrants, the late Dr. Vitanza was born in Italy before the family emigrated.
As a college student near her home in upstate New York, Vitanza wanted to be a doctor. At that time, Katusak points out, it was rare for women of any nationality to be admitted to medicine. But Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania was set up for women. As Katusak puts it, the school led the way for an Italian immigrant to pursue the American Dream. "She was a pioneer — she was the first female doctor in the Binghamton-Endicott area," he says.
"When my Aunt Connie came up, my mom said, ‘I really would like to do something in her name at the time that I die,'" Katusak reports. "I said, ‘Why do you want to wait? We can do something right now if you want to.'" He contacted Drexel and learned about the Schleyer Family Matching Gift Challenge, and decided to create an endowed scholarship.
"Aunt Connie played a tremendous role in my mom's life — and in my early life because she was my pediatrician. She was the matriarch of the family. She dedicated her life to medicine and to ensuring that her nieces and nephews — because she never married — understood that education was the most important aspect of whatever they were going to be doing. She also helped all of us by offsetting some of our college expenses.
"I felt that by creating the endowment we could show that we greatly appreciate the things that she did through her whole life in order to get us to where we are in our lives."
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