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Estate gift creates professorship in memory of pathologist

February 4, 2011

An $860,000 estate gift has created a pathology professorship at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The gift, which was added to an existing fund to complete the professorship, was made through the estate of Elsie and Walter Eilers, who died respectively in 2010 and 1993. The Eilers established the fund at KU Endowment in memory of their son, Russell Jay Eilers, a pathologist who died in 1985.

Dr. Russell Jay Eilers

Dr. Russell Jay Eilers spent much of his career at KU Medical Center, where, from 1957 to 1972, he was a faculty member in the Department of Pathology. In 1972, he was appointed special consultant to the vice chancellor for health affairs, a position he held until moving to California in 1974.

The inaugural recipient of the professorship is Dr. Lowell Tilzer, chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Though Tilzer did not have the opportunity to know Eilers, he said others have described him as a gentleman and a scholar.

“Dr. Eilers was very well-liked and nationally known,” Tilzer said. “He helped establish some of the beginning standards for quality control and proficiency testing throughout the United States.”

The estate gift will increase the department’s ability to provide more research and teaching for students, residents and faculty, said Tilzer.

“I am thrilled and honored that the gift was bestowed on this department,” he said.

Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the medical center and executive dean of the School of Medicine, said professorships provide critical support for the university.

“They help us attract and retain top-flight faculty who are engaged in their particular area of medicine and inspirational in the educational setting,” Atkinson said. “This generous gift will serve as a lasting memorial, and it will benefit our students and faculty for generations.”

Eilers’ accomplishments at KU Medical Center included the completion of a national study on the feasibility of developing a unified health sciences curriculum. This body of work ultimately served as a pathway to basic training of health sciences students of different professional goals for schools across the nation. Eilers also was founding president of the Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute.

Eilers earned two degrees from the University of Minnesota — a bachelor’s in 1949 and a medical degree in 1953.

The Russell Jay Eilers, M.D., Chair of Pathology Professorship 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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February 4, 2011
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