Heroic Gala Highlights Founders Week
|It was a night for superheroes at the 18th annual Gala of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB)
on Oct. 17. The fun tone was set early when UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD, was interrupted
during his opening remarks to tend to "an emergency."|
The lights dimmed and "Superman" music filled the Hyatt Regency
Baltimore ballroom. "Is it a bird, is it a plane?" boomed from the
sound system followed by the arrival of a flying Perman as "Captain
UMB" on the large video screens next to the stage. Fighting such evils
as childhood obesity and neighborhood poverty, the video showed
"Captain UMB" and his fellow superheroes, including the 2013 Founders
Week award winners, are "saving the day" with their efforts and
initiatives such as Promise Heights, MPowering
the State, and the Institute for
a Healthiest Maryland.
After the video, a sheepish Perman returned to the podium, now wearing
a red cape. He proceeded to recognize all the superheroes in the
black-tie crowd of 600, including legislators, philanthropic
supporters, business partners such as platinum sponsor Whiting-Turner
Contracting Co., colleagues from the University
System of Maryland (USM) and the University of
Maryland Medical System, the UMB Foundation, UMB
leadership, faculty, staff, students, board members, community leaders,
and more. "I believe every guest here this evening is a superhero,"
The Gala is the culmination of Founders Week, which honors the past,
present, and future of UMB, the founding institution of USM, with a
series of events. Staples include a staff luncheon, research lecture,
student cookout, and entrepreneur presentation. This year's events
included the opening of UMB's new Seven Scholars University store
(based on the seven schools that make up UMB) and celebrating the 200th
anniversary of the Health Sciences and Human Services Library.
"Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at the opening of the
exhibit 'Evolution and Influences: The HS/HSL at 200,'" Perman said.
"You must see this exhibit, which is open through December."
Former State Senator and USM Regent Francis
X. Kelly Jr. said he was humbled when he was introduced to
speak about UMB's six-year "Making an Impact Worldwide" capital
campaign he chaired that raised $665 million before its conclusion in
December. "I probably deserve the least credit of anyone for the
success of that committee and I thank many of you in this room for your
support." He also said private support was more important than ever to
higher education with state and federal funding continuing at its
present levels being "unrealistic."
The capital campaign was about more than numbers, however. This was
exemplified as students from each of UMB's professional schools
(dentistry, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work) related in a
video how the scholarships that resulted from "Making an Impact
Worldwide" had changed their lives.
Then Perman told his own story about the transformative nature of
scholarships. The UMB president, a pediatric gastroenterologist and
chair of pediatrics at the UM School of Medicine from 1999 to 2004,
told the crowd he had always wanted to be a physician. But when Perman
was 13, his father died. His widowed mother was a seamstress "who got
paid by the hat." So family finances were tight. Perman worked his way
through college, shelving books in the campus library at Northwestern
University and working summers as a mail carrier. He was admitted to
Northwestern University medical school, even though Perman and his
mother had no idea how they would pay "the fortune" for tuition.
"But one day, about three weeks before medical school was to start, I
got a letter in the mail," Perman said. "And the letter said,
'Congratulations! You are the Ploner Scholar. Your medical education is
paid for.' So here I stand before you, a physician, yes, and privileged
to be a president, no less, of a great University. All because of Mrs.
Louise Ploner, who I never had the privilege of meeting. The students
out there need Mrs. Ploners. There are many of you in this room who are
like Mrs. Ploner and there need to be more."
After dinner, a video presentation featured four more UMB superheroes,
the Founders Week Award winners.
Magaly Rodriguez de Bittner, PharmD,
BCPS, CDE, FAPhA, professor and chair of the Department of
Pharmacy Practice and Science at the School of Pharmacy, was
recognized as Entrepreneur of the Year for her groundbreaking work as a
"social entrepreneur," directing the School's Center for Innovative
Pharmacy Solutions (CIPS) and translating CIPS business solutions into
the marketplace by launching the award-winning Maryland Patients,
Pharmacists, Partnerships (P3) Program.
Brenda Ali, office manager for Claire Fraser, PhD, director of the School of Medicine's Institute for
Genome Sciences, was recognized as Public Servant of the Year for her
volunteer work with James McHenry Elementary/Middle School, where she
has led reading programs, coat, book, and school supply drives,
coordinated a fitness fair, and organized an annual Halloween
celebration that has grown into a "Spooktacular" science learning
Internationally renowned for his pioneering observations on ion
channels and calcium signaling in the heart, W. Jonathan Lederer, MD, PhD, was
honored as Researcher of the Year. Lederer, a professor in the
Department of Physiology at the School of Medicine and director of the
Center for Biomedical Engineering and Technology, has published 225
papers, including 19 in the prestigious journals Science and Nature.
UMB's Teacher of the Year is Paula
Monopoli, JD, a professor of law at the Francis King Carey School of Law. A
dedicated mentor, scholar, and teacher who receives glowing evaluations
from her students, Monopoli also is founding director of the Women
Leadership & Equality Program -- the first in an American law
"Can you see why I am so humbled to lead this institution?" Perman said
at the conclusion of the award winners' video. "It's because of them
and people like them. Congratulations!"
Founders Week concluded with a festive food truck rally on
Photo galleries of Founders Week events:
Scholars Bookstore Opening
Founders Week Gala