From the summer 2018 issue of The Spirit of Washington University
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600,000 Americans die of heart disease every year, making this group of disorders the leading cause of death in the United States. Heart disease also is the leading cause of death worldwide.
In order to strengthen Washington University’s ability to advance lifesaving discoveries that transform heart disorders into manageable conditions, alumnus Kim Kuehner, MBA ’77, has committed $15 million through outright and planned gifts to establish and endow the Kim D. Kuehner Program for Personalized Cardiovascular Medicine in the School of Medicine. The program will provide a permanent source of funding for innovative research aimed at improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease.
“This new program will allow us to leverage our leadership in personalized medicine to develop tailored approaches to cardiovascular disease that focus on patients’ individual genetic makeup or the biology of their condition,” says David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “Mr. Kuehner’s exceptional generosity and deep interest in addressing a significant health challenge will benefit patients around the globe.”
Mr. Kuehner’s gift extends his support for Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University. In 2017, he provided $2 million to name the Kuehner Family Court in Anabeth and John Weil Hall, currently under construction at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. His decision to establish the Kuehner Program for Personalized Cardiovascular Medicine was motivated by a desire to broaden the impact of his philanthropy.
“I am involved with several organizations that promote the arts and education in St. Louis,” Mr. Kuehner says. “When I began to explore opportunities to support cutting-edge medical research, I knew I wanted to work with Washington University. I have the utmost confidence in the medical school. I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to breakthroughs that will help so many patients and families.”
The Kuehner Program will fund competitive research grants within the School of Medicine. Each year, the school will issue a call for proposals from faculty members. A panel of leading scientists and physicians at the medical school will award grants to the most promising projects in the emerging field of precision cardiovascular medicine. Emphasis will be placed on early-stage research that, if successful, has the potential to attract additional funding from government agencies, foundations, or corporations.
According to Dr. Perlmutter, the program represents the next phase of the School of Medicine’s personalized medicine initiative. “We laid the groundwork by developing a network of collaborative research centers, many of them funded by dedicated benefactors like Mr. Kuehner, that provide specialized expertise in genomics, immunotherapy, gene editing, and other critical areas to researchers throughout the medical school,” he says. “The Kuehner Program marks the beginning of our efforts to couple these resources with disease-specific personalized medicine programs to advance groundbreaking therapies for specific patient populations.”
Continuing a Family Tradition
Mr. Kuehner’s enthusiasm for investing in Washington University was inspired by his parents. Howard and Hortense “Horty” Kuehner met while both were students at Washington University. They went on to establish the Harry C. Hartkopf Professorship in Econometrics and Statistics at Olin Business School in 1994 in honor of Horty’s father, a former president of Cass Bank & Trust Co. who played a lead role in building the bank’s invoice-processing business, which was incorporated as Cass Information Systems in 1984.
Among their other gifts, Howard and Horty endowed a scholarship in the Sam Fox School in memory of their daughter, Kerry Kuehner, EMBA ’87, a talented artist and graphic designer, and two scholarships in the Olin School, one in honor of Kim and one in memory of Kerry.
Kim Kuehner, who retired in 2016 after a nearly 40-year career as a men’s clothing retailer, has childhood memories of his father spending many evenings on the telephone encouraging friends and colleagues to join Washington University’s Annual Fund giving club, the William Greenleaf Eliot Society. “He was so proud to play a role in the university’s ascent from streetcar college to world-class university,” Mr. Kuehner says. “My parents’ commitment to the university really impressed me.”
Carrying on his family’s tradition, Mr. Kuehner’s latest gift will help transform the School of Medicine into a powerhouse for personalized medicine. “While this contribution reflects my interest in medical research, it also continues my parents’ long history of supporting Washington University.”
—By Mary Lee