Estate gives medical school $2M


Martha Parfet. Courtesy WMU

A medical school in the region has received a $2-million gift.

The Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, or WMed, said today it was given the bequest in December from the estate of the late Martha Parfet, granddaughter of William Upjohn, the founder of Upjohn Company.

Her father and husband also each served as the chairman of Upjohn.

The donation will establish the Martha G. Parfet Discovery Fund and be used to fund research efforts.

“She really devoted herself to this community,” said William Parfet, the eldest of four children by Martha Parfet, who died in February 2017 at 91. “She really cared, and not so much about herself or her own well-being, but about others. Her energy, her family’s energy was really directed toward this city.”

William Parfet said it was also important to his mother to be a part of ensuring that WMed continues to flourish.

The medical school’s W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus in downtown Kalamazoo is named for Martha Parfet’s grandfather.

The campus sits on land that, at one time, housed the research facility where Motrin, Xanax, Halcion, Rogaine and Zyvox were discovered.

“I think she felt that a big part of a strong medical education is exposure to — and engagement in — medical research,” said her son Donald Parfet. “She felt that medical students who are exposed to research and have the opportunity to do research really are all the stronger for it.”

Dr. Hal Jenson said the $2 million will ensure that the Upjohn Campus becomes a beacon of medical education and research in southwest Michigan.

“The importance and impact of this gift can’t be overstated,” Jenson said. “The generosity of Martha Parfet and her family is an inspiration to all of us at the medical school to continue our work of advancing knowledge through innovation and discovery.”

Martha Parfet saw the medical school as an important addition to Kalamazoo and its history of medical and life sciences exploration.

William Parfet said her decision to give $2 million to research efforts at WMed was part of a lifelong goal to help people live longer and healthier lives.

“My brother and my two sisters joined me with a lot of warmth in our heart in making this gift to Western and our hometown,” he said. “Any community that has as a component of it a university and a medical school are usually robust, growing, dynamic communities. The medical school, this is where discoveries are made … and academia plays an increasingly important role in advancing science and medicine. 

“To be a part of all of that was exciting for her. She saw the big picture.”

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