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  December 11, 2000

Health Center Auxiliary to Raise Money for Chair

The UConn Health Center Auxiliary has pledged to raise nearly a million dollars to fund an academic chair.

The chair, to be named after the late faculty member Joseph M. "Jay" Healey, professor of Community Medicine and Health Care, would concentrate on medical humanities and bioethics. The Auxiliary is pledging to raise $900,000 in five years.

"I'm honored that the board has supported the idea of funding a chair," says Marion Holena Levine, Auxiliary president and 18-year member. "This is a major effort for us. The truth of it is the Auxiliary makes money with nickels and dimes at sales and silent auctions on baskets donated by Health Center departments.

"To raise that amount of money in a five-year period is astounding," she says, "and we'll do it with the support of everyone here at the Health Center, the community in general and the development office."

Irene Engel, a 28-year-member of the Auxiliary, is chair of the special projects committee and is spearheading the Auxiliary's effort. Members of the Auxiliary are known as 'the Good Deeds People,' she says. "Endowing a chair in memory of Jay Healey is especially appropriate. The chair will be concerned with research in medicine and ethics and that will express itself in the future in advances in patient care," she says. "That's a good deed."

Pledging hundreds of thousands of dollars isn't something new for the Auxiliary: the organization has given more than $4.5 million to the Health Center in 20 years. Most recently, the group donated $500,000 between 1994 and 1999 to fund scholarships for needy students.

The volunteers would like a higher profile however, and establishing an endowed chair is a pretty effective vehicle to increase one's visibility.

Membership now stands around 300. Begun by the founding faculty members' wives when McCook Hospital in Hartford was the Health Center, the organization now includes men as well as women, faculty, students, staff, and even community members with no direct Health Center connection. All are welcome. Dues are $10 a year.

The Auxiliary's major fund raiser is an annual golf tournament, which does well. But the main operations - the source of most of the nickels and dimes - are the hospital gift shop and the Thrift Shop on Park Road in West Hartford. Add the occasional gold and jewelry sale, the watch sale, May Market, the Holiday Bazaar and a special event or two, and you can look forward to an endowed chair in five years.

Professor Healey, a lawyer, was the head of Community Medicine's Division of Humanistic Studies in Medicine. He died in 1993, at the age of 46.

Healey was immensely popular with students and was widely admired by faculty and staff alike. He was noted for his teaching, and won both Health Center and national teaching awards. Healey's stature and contributions to the Health Center were so notable, he was awarded the University Medal posthumously by the Board of Trustees.

"This is a major commitment on the part of the Auxiliary," says Domenic Serino, associate vice president and head of development. "We deeply appreciate the generous support the Auxiliary has provided over the years."

Pat Keefe