$25 million gift funds medical education center

Frances and James McGlothlin always create a personalized Christmas card to send to their friends and family.

One year, the card featured a picture of Jim, who was recovering from spinal surgery and wearing a back brace, with Fran handing him a drink. In the background was Dr. Harold F. Young, professor and founding chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Virginia Commonwealth University, with a halo glowing above his head.

The card symbolized Young's role in the lives of the couple. In 1997, Jim went to see Young for terrible back pain. The couple turned to Young again when Fran needed attention. They were thrilled with Young's care. The McGlothlins said that Young and his team have been "guardian angels" for them and countless other patients who have benefited from their skills, talents and dedication to the health care profession.

To show their gratitude for Young's work and dedication, the McGlothlins in April made a $25 million gift to the VCU School of Medicine. In recognition of the gift — one of the largest in the university's history — and the McGlothlins' longtime support of the School of Medicine, the school's new medical education building, now under construction, will be named the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Medical Education Center.

At the April announcement, Jim McGlothlin, CEO of The United Co., expressed the couple's deep appreciation for Young.

"When you have someone in the trenches like Harry, it's easy to raise money. We love, adore and respect him for his skill and his great and charming friendship, which he doesn't share with someone just because they might make a gift but extends to everyone in need of help," McGothlin said.

Calling the gift an investment in the future, McGlothlin also thanked those who helped make the gift a reality by working for his company.

"This gift is made on behalf of the men and women who work in the coal mines who cannot on their own give this gift. We love and appreciate them," he said.

The new McGlothlin Medical Education Center, a 12-story, 200,000-square-foot building, will bring together faculty, medical students, residents and practicing physicians in a state-of-the-art training hub that is being designed to create a new standard in medical education. The interior has been planned to house the most significant renovation to the school's curriculum in more than 30 years.

"Your gift makes history today. And most importantly, it will change the future. It really will. It's catalytic. … We are so thrilled that you were able to see the promise of this new facility and what it will mean for medical education in the future," said Dean of the School of Medicine Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D.

The $158.6 million building also will enable the school to address the national and statewide physician shortage by accommodating a larger class size, 250 from 200 — increasing the total medical student body to 1,000.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell noted how the McGlothlins' generosity will help.

"On behalf of all Virginians, I want to sincerely thank James and Frances McGlothlin for their incredibly gracious gift. This selfless act of generosity will help the School of Medicine to graduate more doctors in the years ahead, ultimately ensuring that more Americans will have access to the quality medical care they need and deserve," McDonnell said. "The McGlothlins have given a gift that will resonate through the years as doctors leave the School of Medicine and practice in our communities. It is fitting that the gift was presented in recognition of Dr. Harold Young, who has dedicated his life to improving the lives of others."

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., emphasized that the McGlothlins' gift will help provide access to quality health care for the neediest and most critically ill patients.

"We have advanced health care for generations to come, all made possible because of two people who care about communities and what we are doing for our communities," Rao said.

This is not the couple's first gift to VCU. In 2004, the McGlothlins, who reside in Bristol, Va., made a $2 million gift to establish the James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Chair in Neurosurgery, currently held by Young.

The new McGlothlin Medical Education Center was designed by I.M. Pei's internationally acclaimed architectural firm, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, and Ballinger architects. The structure is being built to meet the United States Green Building Council's criteria for LEED Silver certification. Completion is scheduled for spring 2013.

To learn more about supporting the School of Medicine, contact Tom Holland, associate dean of development, at (804) 828-3800 or tehollan@vcu.edu.