History of Endowed Professorships
In the spring of 2015, we celebrated the Perelman School of Medicine’s impressive 250-year history of transformative discoveries that have changed science and health care. Our legacy of excellence and impact has been supported by along tradition of endowed professorships—and the visionary benefactors who have established them.
Gifts for the endowment of professorships hold a special place in academic medicine. Of the many uses of philanthropy—buildings, scholarships, research support, clinical programs and operating funds—the creation of a named chair is arguably the most impactful and enduring. The unique function of endowed chairs in sustaining scholarship and advancing care in a particular field over decades, if not centuries, explains the high esteem in which they are held.
It’s telling of the Perelman School’s impact that one of the first endowed chairs at Penn was established in 1877 in its school of medicine. Through a generous gift, Susan R. Barton created the John Rhea Barton Professorship of Surgery in honor of her husband. D. Hayes Agnew, one of the most respected surgeons of his day, was the first incumbent of the Barton Professorship. Since then, 13 other distinguished surgeons have held the title John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery.
Mrs. Barton set a precedent which has been followed by many other generous benefactors to the Perelman School. Over the years, the School has set the pace for the establishment of endowed chairs at Penn. To date, more than 200 chairs have been established, helping to build Penn Medicine into one of the country’s great academic medical centers. Endowed professorships assist in the recruitment and retention of accomplished and distinguished faculty members who excel in teaching, research and patient care. Supported by funds from endowed chairs, our talented faculty are empowered to expand scientific knowledge and develop novel treatments to improve patients’ lives.
We focus on these particular gifts on this site—in tribute to the far-sighted donors who have established endowed chairs, the remarkable individuals for whom they are named and the distinguished faculty members who are honored to hold them.