University of Vermont

Class of ’63 Medical Alumnus Capra and Wife Bequeath Generous Estate Gift to College of Medicine

J. Donald Capra, M.D.'63
J. Donald Capra, M.D.'63

University of Vermont (UVM) Class of 1963 medical alumnus J. Donald Capra, M.D., and his wife, Patricia Capra, of Oklahoma City, Okla., have made a generous provision in their estate to benefit the UVM College of Medicine.

According to Capra, who also earned his undergraduate degree from UVM in 1959, the gift is in memory of his late parents, Richard and Mary Capra of Barre, Vt., and serves as an expression of his gratitude to them.

Capra’s parents came to Vermont from Italy as children, in the first decade of the 20th century. Although not formally educated, his parents appreciated and emphasized education as a priority for their children.

“My grandfather was a stonecutter in Barre,” says Capra. “My father worked as an electrician/derrick operator in Barre at Comolli and Company his entire working life. My mother was a homemaker and raised my sister Carolyn and myself.”

Capra met his wife of 54 years, Patricia, when she was a nurse at the former Mary Fletcher Hospital and he was an undergraduate student. At his graduation from the UVM College of Medicine in 1963, Capra received the William Brown Alumni Prize, named for a former dean of the College of Medicine, and the UVM Century Award.

“I am forever grateful to my parents for introducing me to the concept of going to college early in life,” he says. “My medical degree from the University of Vermont has allowed me to have a productive life and see the world.”

An academic physician specializing in immunology, Capra served as the Edwin L. Cox Distinguished Chair in Immunology and Genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and directed its Molecular Immunology Center from 1990 to 1997. In 1997, he was asked to serve as the third full-time president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, a moderate-sized research institute in Oklahoma City. Since his retirement in 2006, Capra has been consulting widely for pharmaceutical firms in the field of immunology.

Patricia went back to school mid-career to earn a Ph.D. from UT Southwestern and became an academic clinical psychologist at the university, where she served as vice chair of the Department of Psychology for 15 years.

“As a former foundation president,” Capra says, “I know how wonderful it can be to get an estate gift and have the flexibility to do whatever is needed and necessary.” In his role at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, he helped to raise more than $100 million dollars.

“My wife and I decided to make this type of unrestricted gift to UVM so that a future dean could use the funds where he or she sees fit,” says Capra. “My hope is that upon our deaths, there will be enough money in the account to name a chair for my parents. I think that a Richard and Mary Capra Chair in the College of Medicine would make visitors stop, every once in a while, and wonder who the Capras were – Italian immigrants from Barre, Vermont, whose son graduated from medical school and wished to honor them for lives well lived.”