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Couple’s $1 million gift commitment will advance cardiovascular research at KU Medical Center

January 13, 2015

Keith and Laurie Tennant, of Vero Beach, Florida, have made a $1 million gift commitment to support research near and dear to their hearts. Their planned gift will benefit the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

Keith and Laurie Tennant with their cats, Molly, left, and Milo.

Both Keith and Laurie are former faculty members in KU’s Department of Health, Sport and Exercise Sciences in the School of Education. Keith served as department chair from 2002 to 2005, and as professor from 2002 until his retirement in 2012. Laurie taught in the department from 2002 to 2011.

At 72, Keith is going strong, thanks to two coronary bypass surgeries — the first, a quadruple bypass at age 46, the second, a triple bypass in 2010. He and Laurie realize how fortunate they are, as heart disease claimed the lives of a number of his male relatives when they were in their late 40s and early 50s.

Five years ago this month, the Tennants were readying to leave Lawrence to go on a ski trip when they learned that a different kind of trip was in order. A cardiac catheterization showed that Keith’s coronary arteries were blocked again. Within days, they met with Jeffrey Kramer, M.D., of the MidAmerica Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons at KU Medical Center. He arranged for Keith’s heart surgery to take place at The University of Kansas Hospital shortly afterward.

“We are very grateful for the excellent care Keith received at KU Med from the doctors and nurses,” said Laurie. “The MidAmerica Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgeons got him in very quickly, and Keith came home from the hospital four days after the surgery. We were so impressed with his doctors and nurses. If Keith ever has to have another procedure, KU Med is where I want him to go.

“Our money will go toward research so that other lives can be saved, as Keith’s was. Without earlier cardiovascular research, there would have been no surgery, and he would have died at about age 46. Cardiovascular research has led to excellent medical procedures that have extended his life considerably. In our way, this is about giving back so that other lives can be saved.”

KU Medical Center Executive Vice Chancellor Doug Girod expressed appreciation for the gift commitment. “Major gifts like these are critical to support our ongoing research efforts that provide the discoveries to save lives every day,” said Girod. “We are very grateful for the Tennants and their passion to pay forward to the benefit of others.”

The Cardiovascular Research Institute provides an integrative framework for cardiovascular research conducted at the University of Kansas Medical Center and The University of Kansas Hospital. The institute connects investigators from a wide spectrum of cardiovascular and translational research that brings discoveries from the bench to the bedside. In addition, the institute trains future generations of scientists and physicians.

The gifts count toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.

The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

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January 13, 2015
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