Orthwein Endowment Honors a Spirited St. Louis “Symbol of Yale”

William Orthwein '38

A contribution of $2.5 million has endowed a fund in the School of Medicine in honor of William Orthwein, a 1938 graduate of Yale College. The fund, which supports a Yale Scholar in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, was created by the family of William R. Orthwein, Jr. and the William R. Orthwein, Jr. and Laura Rand Orthwein Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in St. Louis, Missouri.

Robert J. Alpern, M.D., Dean of the School and Ensign Professor of Medicine, launched the Yale Scholars initiative in 2006 to attract the best young scientists to his faculty. Representing the School’s commitment to support a new faculty member, each Yale Scholars endowment disburses $1 million in startup funding over four years—support that is critical to a promising researcher aiming to launch a new laboratory and compete for federal funding. The Orthwein endowment is the third in an initiative Yale hopes will one day support twenty positions.

“Being named a Yale Scholar will be an honor for young scientists, and it is only going to go to the best recruits,” says Alpern.

Reflecting a life of service

The traits associated with a Yale Scholar—intellect, talent, creativity, and humane values—make a fitting tribute to a Yale alumnus known for his impact on the community. The senior Orthwein did a brief stint after graduation as a salesman for the General American Life Insurance Company, but soon moved to McDonnell Aircraft Corporation (later to become McDonnell Douglas, now part of the Boeing Company), where he would enjoy a forty five-year career. According to his daughter, Nettie O. Dodge, of Wheatland, Wyoming, Orthwein began in the personnel division of the company and eventually headed that unit. He later became the first President and Chairman of McDonnell Douglas Automation Company, or McAuto, which pioneered systems integration in the aircraft industry, particularly in the realm of computer-aided design and manufacturing.

Stephen Jones ’70, a trustee of the Orthwein Foundation, says that Orthwein has been the most prominent figure in the St. Louis community of Yale alumni, a “symbol of Yale” for as long as he can remember. Jones said Orthwein has given over 100 years of combined service to cultural and charitable organizations in the city, including St. Luke’s Hospital, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Louis Zoo, the Saint Louis Science Center, and the Missouri Botanical Garden. “His involvement in the Yale community and in the St. Louis community more generally, in terms of his time, his talent and his treasure, is remarkable.”

Adapted from Medicine@Yale, Volume 3, Issue 3

(June 1, 2007)

June 1, 2007