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$1.3 million gift will support MU cardiovascular, ophthalmology research

Thursday, October 11, 2012 | 2:04 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — George and Melna Bolm had little in the way of connection to MU.

They did not attend the university. They were not treated at University Hospital and Clinics. They did not live in Columbia.

But the Warren County couple knew they wanted to support MU medical research.

Family of the Bolms presented a $1.3 million gift to the MU School of Medicine on Thursday morning in the presence of university and MU School of Medicine leaders. 

"It is a very compelling story," said Thomas Hiles, vice chancellor for development and alumni relations. "They had humble lives and could have used this money to live in the Ritz-Carlton. Instead, it will help research. It is very inspiring."

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, MU School of Medicine Dean Robert Churchill and MU Ophthalmology Department Chair John Cowden spoke at ceremony in the MU Reynolds Alumni Center.

Melna Bolm died in 2011 and her husband passed away in 2000, according to MU.

Melna's gifts were a memorial to her husband. An initial gift of $550,000 in 2002 established the George L. and Melna A. Bolm Distinguished Professor in Cardiovascular Health.

An additional $550,000 from the Bolm estate elevated the professorship to a chair, which is held by Ronald Korthuis. The estate also provided $250,000 to establish the George L. and Melna A. Bolm Distinguished Faculty Scholar in Ophthalmology. Dean Hainsworth was recently named to the position.

Part of the gift will support cardiovascular research. The other part will support ophthalmology research, particularly macular degeneration, which Melna suffered from.

"The most common cause of vision loss is macular degeneration," Hainsworth said. "Your grandma is going to want to know how she is going to see. The gift allows us to have funding that we would otherwise have to go through grants to get."

Family members at the ceremony said George and Melna Bolm would be pleased with the results of their gift. 

"She would be so happy," cousin Bonnie Vahle said. "She was such a gracious and generous person. She would be tickled."


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