Leading Londoners partner with Western to double research impact

An ambitious plan to boost the impact of research at The University of Western Ontario has attracted a generous donation from a London couple who want their gift to have a lasting effect on London’s capacity for world-class research.

The gift is a $1 million donation from Dr. Cecil Rorabeck, a well-respected London physician, and his wife, Linda. The impetus for the donation, according to the Rorabecks, is the existence of a special program at Western that provides matching funding to create permanently endowed, high-impact research chairs at Western.

Linda and Dr. Cecil Rorabeck, along with Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry dean Michael Strong, celebrate the announcement of the Chair in Molecular Neuroscience and Vascular Biology named after the local couple in honour of their donation.

“I have been fortunate to see from the inside, the extraordinary work and resources it takes to develop and bring discoveries to the patients who are waiting every day, filled with hope,” says Rorabeck. “For Linda and for me, the support of a research chair was a meaningful way to show our commitment to that research.”

One of the world’s leading experts on hip and knee replacement surgery, Rorabeck is a professor Emeritus at Western and is former Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery at Western and London Health Sciences Centre.  A Western graduate (MD ’68), Rorabeck received an honorary degree from his alma mater last October in recognition of the worldwide impact he has made in medicine, and his dedication to the community.

Rorabeck most recently served as interim CEO and Scientific Director at the Robarts Research Institute, overseeing its merger and consolidation with Western, which was finalized in June 2007.

The Rorabeck gift to Western will be used to establish the Cecil and Linda Rorabeck Chair in Molecular Neuroscience and Vascular Biology. The Chair will be located in Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Robarts Research Institute, and the holder will be an appointed scientist at the new Centre for Molecular Neuroscience and Vascular Biology at Robarts. The Centre’s goal is to discover and translate molecular therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke-induced dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Western President Amit Chakma has outlined a bold strategy to dramatically increase the number of endowed chairs at Western – with a goal of 100 new chairs in the next 10 years across all faculties.

To begin to work toward this goal, the university has committed up to $12.5 million to create as many as eight new chairs by April 2011. During this time, the university will match private gifts of up to $1.5 million to fully establish a chair in perpetuity.

Matched chairs must be consistent with the university’s academic strategy and direction. Western’s matching fund program for endowed chairs is intended to help attract some of the world’s best researchers to Western.  The holders of these chairs bring new knowledge and research, teaching strengths, and contribute to the betterment of society.

“We are proud and honoured that two beloved members of our community have stepped up to become among the first to designate their gift to specifically support Western’s Matching Fund Program for Endowed Chairs,” says Western President Amit Chakma. “This is the beginning of a new thrust by our university to show the world the impact our research can achieve.”

The first chair established under the matching program was announced by Western’s Richard Ivey School of Business in September thanks to a gift from Ian Ihnatowycz and Marta Witer, who directed $1.5 million of their $3.5 million gift to endow a Chair in Leadership.

The Rorabeck gift of $1 million is being combined with another donor’s $500,000 bequest to the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. This will create a total donation of $1.5 million which will then be matched by the university to create a $3 million endowed chair.

“We are grateful to the Rorabecks for allowing us to share news of their gift,” says Chakma. “It is our hope and theirs that this announcement might inspire others to see this as an opportunity to make a gift with extraordinary impact.”