University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Vermont Medicine Magazine

UVM Names Medical Education Center for Alumnus Robert Larner, MD, and Helen Larner

Burlington native Larner and wife honored for longstanding support of medical education

Robert Larner and Helen Larner
Robert Larner, Class of '42, and wife Helen

The University of Vermont will name the Medical Education Center at the College of Medicine for alumnus and Burlington native Robert Larner, MD, and Helen Larner, for their decades-long efforts to make medical education more affordable for a generation of students, and for inspiring the support of more than 1700 donors.

“The impact of the Larners’ generosity on the College of Medicine and the physicians educated there is immeasurable,” noted UVM President Thomas Sullivan. “Their understanding and support of cutting edge medical education and the importance of access and affordability for medical students has impacted many, many lives. Moreover, their commitment to UVM and its students has sparked a continuous stream of philanthropy from others, including physicians who benefitted from the Larner Endowment when they were students. It is fitting that we honor Bob and Helen in a lasting way by naming this important educational building in recognition of their longstanding dedication to our University.”

Dr. Larner and his wife Helen, who live in California, have a long history of giving at the UVM College of Medicine. In 1985 with an initial gift of $50,000, they established the Larner Endowment and Student Loan Fund. The Larners have contributed to the Fund every year since then, and their wish to create a culture of giving back has inspired gifts from an expansive network of donors that includes past recipients, other alumni, and friends.

Now totaling over $8 million in assets, the Fund continues to provide support for academically strong and financially needy medical students at the College. To date, the Fund has provided financial support to over 1100 UVM medical students and receives over 150 contributions annually, growing each year as recipients move on in their professional lives and are inspired to give back themselves.

“I developed, early on, an appreciation and respect for the quality of the medical education I received at UVM, and this appreciation was reinforced during my internship in Maine, my residency at Johns Hopkins, and through my years of practice,” said Dr. Larner, who celebrated his 95th birthday in January. “Our hope is that the Larner Fund will continue to inspire its beneficiaries to think about giving back, if only in modest ways, even before they graduate.”

The Larners have also generously supported a number of medical education initiatives at UVM. The couple recently committed $1 million to build an innovative Team-Based Learning Classroom in the Medical Education Center Courtyard, which will support interactive and case-based learning for the College’s 450 medical students. The Larners also contributed $300,000 last year to purchase five cardiopulmonary simulators for the UVM/Fletcher Allen Clinical Simulation Laboratory.

“The extraordinary gifts of this remarkable couple have already made an impact on an entire generation of medical students and physicians,” said Frederick Morin, MD, dean of the UVM College of Medicine. “The Larners have a vision of the future that is truly inspiring, from their thoughtfulness in creating a fund that encourages giving back, to their appreciation of what it takes to prepare the physicians of tomorrow. It is an honor to be able to acknowledge their contributions through the naming of our Medical Education Center.”

The Medical Education Center was completed in 2005 as a collaborative project between UVM and teaching hospital partner Fletcher Allen Health Care. The Concourse, Pavilion and Courtyard buildings comprise 93,000 square feet of classrooms and lecture halls (including the Davis Auditorium at Fletcher Allen, Carpenter Auditorium, and the Sullivan and Reardon Classrooms), the Dana Medical Library, and additional teaching, learning and student support space that serve as the heart of the College. A celebration and naming ceremony is planned for fall 2013 during UVM Reunion and Homecoming.

Dr. Larner, a native of Burlington, received his bachelor's degree from UVM in 1939 and his M.D. in 1942. He completed an internship at Maine Medical Center, then served in the military at both Guadalcanal and Okinawa. He returned to complete his residency at Johns Hopkins, and went on to practice internal medicine with the Robert Larner Medical Group in Los Angeles. He retired in 1989. In 1992, at his 50th Medical Reunion, he was honored with the A. Bradley Soule Award, the highest alumni award given by the College of Medicine.

“I developed a keen awareness of benefits bestowed on my life by the medical education provided here, a lifetime that has been stimulating, interesting and satisfying,” said Dr. Larner. “And for all that, my thanks go to the University of Vermont and especially the College of Medicine.”