Dr. and Mrs. P. Roy Vagelos Donate $250 Million to Columbia Medical School to End Student Debt

Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and his wife, Diana. (Photo by Costas Bej)

Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, 88, the former chairman of Merck & Co., and his wife, Diana, are donating $250 million to the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, one of the top medical schools, to underwrite financial aid. They are both members of Leadership 100.

With the gift, the medical school will be officially renamed the Columbia University Roy and Diana Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, according to the President of Columbia, Lee C. Bollinger.

Of the total amount of the gift, $150 million will fund an endowment that the school projects will ultimately enable it to underwrite its student financial aid. Those students with the greatest financial need would receive full-tuition scholarships, while others would get only grants, not loans, to make up their need, the school said. The remainder of the $250 million gift will fund medical programs, scientific research and a new professorship.

The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons is one of the top medical schools in the country, and among the most expensive. Tuition for one year is $59,364. Add in fees and living expenses, and the total is about $90,000 per year for four years, according to the New York Times.

In an interview, Dr. Vagelos said that he hopes the gift will free Columbia’s medical students to pursue careers in family medicine, pediatrics, research and other fields that are less lucrative than the top-paying specialties. Dr. Vagelos was himself a scholarship student at the school in the 1950s.

Dr. Vagelos served as chief executive officer of Merck & Co. Inc. for nine years, from 1985 to 1994. After leaving the global health care company, Dr. Vagelos became chairman of the board of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a successful biotechnology company. He grew up in Westfield, New Jersey.

In 2010, Dr. Vagelos and his wife, Diana, a Barnard graduate, donated $53 million to the medical school to help fund the construction of a new building, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, which opened in 2016.

 

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