When it comes to the students who earn a place at Washington University, the university is committed to two equally important principles — attracting the most talented, hardest working, and creative undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from around the world; and making certain every one of them can flourish regardless of their financial circumstances. The truth is, many of these exceptional individuals cannot reach their full potential on their own.
Financial aid in the form of scholarships and fellowships is crucial, as is support to ensure that the full WashU experience is available to all students, regardless of background. Washington University is committed to providing the resources necessary for all students to thrive. This means helping students with such expenses as academic materials and computers, study abroad and professional development opportunities, and stipends that make it possible for them to participate in often unpaid internships, professional conferences, site visits, and summer field work. Research shows that students with this kind of support express higher levels of confidence, increased self-awareness, and a clearer vision for what it is possible for them to achieve.
When John AufderHeide, MD, was completing his medical degree and residency at the School of Medicine in the 1970s, he got more than the world-class medical education that began his career as a respected radiologist. He got a scientific and philanthropic role model in Philip Needleman. “Dr. Needleman set a great example for me to follow in my career,” says AufderHeide. “We wanted to make sure that his exemplary career and character would serve as inspiration to future WUSM students.”
In 2016, AufderHeide and his wife, Nancy, established the Dr. Philip Needleman Endowed Fellowship for students in the MD/MA or MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program who have demonstrated superior scholarship in molecular and/or pharmacological approaches to inflammation in humans, the field in which Needleman left his mark on the world. Needleman and his colleagues discovered COX-2, an enzyme that led to the development of the blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug Celebrex.
Clara Kao is a 2020–21 recipient of the Needleman Fellowship. A student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, she is studying a poorly understood intestinal disorder widespread among developing countries.
“I am so grateful to the AufderHeides for their incredible support and for the opportunity to hold a fellowship named for an exemplary role model like Dr. Needleman,” she says. Needleman and his wife, Sima, MSW ’74, have been role models of generosity for many years. In 2018, they made a catalytic gift to create two centers of excellence at the medical school to develop therapies for chronic diseases of aging and neurodegeneration.
When Gary Sumers, AB ’75, visited the WashU campus as a high school senior, he took one look at the Brookings Quad and thought, “This is what a university is supposed to be.” Sumers has used his WashU education and a successful business career to ensure that educational experience will be available for generations.
Junior Mallory Woodruff is the 2020–21 recipient of the Joan Sumers Scholarship. She is a philosophy-neuroscience-psychology major and serves as a mentor for low-income first-year students.
“The world exists with so much unfairness, and I hope to use my fortunes to improve quality of life for others,” she says.
Sumers’ impact on the Danforth Campus is readily seen at both its east and west ends, locations of the Sumers Recreation Center and Sumers Welcome Center. But above all, he is committed to assuring that WashU remains affordable for middle-class students like him. He sponsored annual scholarships for many years, but in 2007, when in a position to do more, he created an endowed scholarship in Arts & Sciences named for his late mother, Joan Sumers. Three years later, he created another endowed scholarship in Arts & Sciences, and in 2014, he provided a generous commitment to support endowed scholarships in any school for students with high financial need.
“I want these students to enjoy the incredible things the university has to offer,” he says. “If they are as lucky in the future as I have been, I hope they will do something for other students.”