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$10.5 Million Gift from the Haas Family for Penn Medicine, Morris Arboretum
May 26, 2009, Volume 55, No. 34

A collection of gifts totaling $10.5 million from Philadelphia philanthropists John O. Haas and Dr. Janet Haas, will support four endeavors at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Reflecting the Haases’ long relationship with Penn, the gifts underwrite a directorship at the Morris Arboretum; pilot studies in Alzheimer’s disease drug discovery; and two endowed chairs in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, bioethics and clinical medicine.

“We are so grateful for the generosity and vision of John and Janet Haas,” said President Amy Gutmann. “These gifts supporting the work of our superb faculty will greatly advance the goals of the Penn Compact to pursue academic excellence while providing service to the wider community.”

Three of the gifts advance the work of Penn Medicine, a priority that led Dr. Janet Haas to join the Penn Medicine Campaign Cabinet in 2007. 

“Early in their learning, physicians come to understand that superb patient care depends upon a complex interplay among research, education, and clinical acumen. John and I have been fortunate to participate in and witness such integration at Penn, where excellence is embedded throughout the medical system,” said Janet Haas. “We appreciate Penn.” 

“These gifts will promote continued excellence in Penn Medicine’s three core missions: education, research, and care,” said Dr. Arthur H. Rubenstein, Dean of the School of Medicine and EVP of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System. “We thank the Haas family today, but the full impact of this generous gift will continue to be felt for years to come.”

Dr. Haas is a physician trained in physical medicine and rehabilitation of neurologically-impaired patients, with an interest in palliative medicine.  She is a published medical ethicist.  In 1996 she helped her colleague, Dr. Arthur Caplan, chairman of the department of medical ethics and America’s most respected bioethicist, create the Advisory Board for the Penn Center for Bioethics, which she has chaired since July 2006.  To further Penn’s pre-eminence in the field, the family has given $2 million to establish the Sidney D. Caplan Professorship in Bioethics.

The importance of a robust academic foundation in the practice of internal medicine prompted the Haas family to give $3 million to create the Penn Medicine at Radnor Clinical Endowed Professorship. The fund, supporting a faculty member in General Internal Medicine at the Radnor outpatient facility, honors Dr. Thorne Sparkman, Jr., medical director in the department of medicine at Radnor for his exemplification of the humanistic treatment of patients’ physical, psychosocial, and spiritual needs.

The Haases understand that the public and private cost of Alzheimer’s disease is anticipated to rise exponentially over time as growing numbers of persons are affected.  In helping to design the Penn Innovative Pilot Program for Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery, Dr. Haas worked with Dr. Virginia M.-Y. Lee and Dr. John Q. Trojanowski,  co-directors of Penn Medicine’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, to ensure that the family’s $3 million gift would give researchers the greatest possible scientific freedom to pursue therapies for this debilitating disease.

The Haas family’s connection with the Morris Arboretum has deep roots. By creating an endowed chair, the John J. Willaman Director of Botany, the family honors Mr. Haas’s late maternal grandfather, a PhD in botany and Arboretum volunteer. The gift supports the Arboretum’s superb but unheralded botanical research including research efforts for the Pennsylvania Flora Project, and reflects Dr. Willaman’s passion for plant protection.

Dr. John Willaman with his grandson, John Haas circa 1978

Tim Block, the Arboretum’s Director of Botany, remarked, “This gift is at once humbling and tremendously uplifting. We are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Haas family and look forward to building the future of the botany department on this firm foundation.”

Mr. Haas commented, “Grandad was always curious, and he loved nature. I can remember him composting seeds of his Kentucky coffee tree into rich loam year after year. Finally he planted tiny seeds in his extra-special compost but they wouldn’t grow. His disappointment was matched with delight to have learned something new.”   

Excited to honor special members of the Penn community, the Haas family hopes that its gifts enable Penn to continue learning much that is new, to vigorously share that knowledge, and to make it possible for many to experience the wonder, care and compassion that a favorite grandfather embodies.


Almanac - May 26, 2009, Volume 55, No. 34