$1.3 million gifted to School of Medicine

A total of $1.3 million was bequeathed to further research into diseases affecting vision and the heart.

More than $1.3 million worth of estate gifts have been bequeathed to the School of Medicine by George and Melna Bolm, Chancellor Brady Deaton announced Thursday.

The gift includes $250,000 as an endowment for the George L. and Melna A. Bolm Distinguished Faculty Scholar in Ophthalmology, and $550,000, which is added to a previous donation of the same amount in order to elevate a professorship in their name to a distinguished chair.

“The humbleness of George and Melna speaks to me,” Deaton said. “George worked as a postal worker and a farmer and yet he and his wife were still able to donate more than a million to the university.”

The donation process was started by Melna Bolm and the family’s attorney following the death of George Bolm in 2000. The recent donation was awarded following the death of Melna Bolm in 2011.

“Melna suffered from macular degeneration (a disease causing loss of sight) and George had several cardiovascular problems,” said Bonnie Vahle, a cousin of the Bolms. “We are so grateful that we can help and do as much as we can for finding cures for cardiovascular and ophthalmology diseases.”

School of Medicine Dean Robert Churchill said the donations would help further an already impressive cardiovascular research program.

“Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the nation,” Churchill said. “With gifts such as this, the school of medicine has established themselves as having one of the nation’s best cardiovascular programs and it is recognized as such internationally.”

Deaton said neither of the Bolms were alumni of MU and that no record exists of them being treated by MU physicians.

“(Melna) wrote in a letter to a family member, ‘I decided to support MU because it was close to home and needed support for its efforts to serve people in my area,’” Deaton said.

The award for the distinguished faculty scholar award in the Bolms’ name was given to Dean Hainsworth, a professor of ophthalmology.

“My mother has macular degeneration but she loves to read and enjoy her grandchildren," Hainsworth said when accepting the award. "She may be older but she still has much love and good to offer to those around her. She says her biggest fear is that she will no longer be useful. This is echoed by the many patients with macular degeneration that I see throughout the year. With this award, Mrs. Bolm is still doing much good. She has been and will continue to be very, very useful.”

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