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Office of University Development

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Planned Giving: Earl Wolfman

Giving to Support Faculty: School of Medicine co-founder creates fund for endowed surgery professorship.

Photo: A portrait of Earl and Lois Wolfman

Surgeon Earl Wolfman and his late wife, Lois, circa 1992, left, and Wolfman in the operating room.
(Courtesy professor emeritus Earl Wolfman)

About charitable IRA rollovers

  • First introduced in 2006, and currently extended through 2011;
  • Allow individuals age 70½ and older to contribute gifts up to $100,000 directly from an IRA to a qualified nonprofit;
  • Contributions do not count toward the donor’s taxable income.

To learn more, contact the planned giving office in University Development at 530-754-4438.

by Sarah Colwell

When Professor Emeritus Earl Wolfman helped found the UC Davis School of Medicine 45 years ago, he and the school’s founding dean, John Tupper, insisted on creating a medical school where academic researchers were fully integrated with clinicians and the entire medical community.

It is a philosophy that, in Wolfman’s estimation, has helped the school become ranked among the top 50 medical schools in the nation for primary care training and research. And it is a philosophy that Wolfman and his late wife, Lois, wanted to support with their gifts establishing the Earl F. Wolfman, Jr., M.D., and Lois J. Wolfman Endowed Fund. This fund will create an endowed professorship in the Department of Surgery.

“The attitude that still prevails at UC Davis and the close relationship with the medical community is what sets the School of Medicine apart,” said Wolfman, the founding chair of the surgery department and the founding associate dean of the medical school. “Today, when I go into the medical center, I still get butterflies.”

Wolfman said he is amazed at what has been accomplished at the school in a relatively short period of time — including assembling a high-caliber faculty and producing cutting-edge research.

When Wolfman founded the school in 1966 with Tupper, the two men had no buildings, no students, no faculty and no hospital. All they had was a $35,000 budget and a single 10-by-10-foot office, Wolfman recalled. Today, medical school students learn in UC Davis Health System’s technologically advanced education building, collaborate in teams with other health care providers-in-training, and obtain clinical experience at free community clinics.

“Many schools would take twice as long to accomplish half as much as what has been done at UC Davis,” he said.

The Wolfmans were interested in establishing an endowed professorship because of their desire to attract top-notch faculty to the school and to create a legacy in remembrance of Earl Wolfman’s long and successful career — success that Earl credits to his wife, Lois, because of her many years of support.

Dr. Wolfman

Surgeon Earl Wolfman in the operating room.
(Courtesy professor emeritus Earl Wolfman)

“She is part of the reason for all of this,” said Wolfman, remembering his high school sweetheart and wife of 61 years who died in 2007. “Lois tried to talk me out of putting her name on the endowment, but I kept it in there — not only for her, but for all the spouses and other companions who have been in a position of support and who are not always recognized.”

Wolfman has made his contributions to create the endowed professorship through charitable rollovers from his Individual Retirement Account to UC Davis. With this form of giving, Wolfman’s contributions do not count toward his taxable income. The IRA charitable rollover provision has been extended through 2011.

“The IRA charitable rollover is one of the most tax-effective ways to make a gift to a cause you care about,” said Mark Schaal, a planned giving officer with UC Davis Health System. “It is a great way to improve your overall tax situation while helping UC Davis continue to meet its goals and achieve its vision for the future.”

To ensure that his gift intentions are fulfilled, Wolfman made the surgery department the primary beneficiary of his IRA so the balance of the endowed professorship will be funded through his estate if the endowed professorship is not fully funded during his lifetime.

Sarah Colwell is a senior writer for The Campaign for UC Davis.

This article was originally published in UC Davis Magazine.