Hannah F. Pietsch
Houston Methodist receives record $101 million gift
Names 21-story Walter Tower
Houston Methodist has received a $101 million philanthropic gift from Paula and Rusty Walter and the Walter Oil & Gas Corporation to attract and retain the most talented physicians and scientists who will help pioneer lifesaving new treatments for patients suffering from diseases of all kinds. This gift is the largest in the institution’s nearly 100-year history.
Houston Methodist will raise an additional $66 million in matching funds, bringing the total philanthropic impact of this gift to $167 million.
The gift will support an aggressive expansion of Houston Methodist’s endowed chairs and other dedicated faculty, research and teaching positions. The gift includes a matching fund designed to increase the number of endowed chairs to 100 in recognition of Houston Methodist’s 100-year anniversary in 2019. For every commitment of $1 million or more, the gift will provide a $500,000 match for up to 50 endowed chairs.
A major expansion of Houston Methodist’s neuroscience research program additionally is directed and supported by the gift. Rusty, an inspirational survivor of a stroke in 2013, enrolled in two clinical trials at Houston Methodist during his recovery.
“It was during this experience that we saw firsthand how close the field of neurology is to making significant breakthroughs,” Rusty said. “As I continue to recover from my stroke, Paula and I thought we could help make a difference by supporting research through the Walter Neurological Restoration Initiative.”
The gift also continues and expands the Walter’s funding of the Translational Research Initiative, a matching-fund program that helps researchers avoid the extended time between a scientific discovery and its successful use in humans. In that time lag, many projects are lost due to a lack of funding. Physicians and scientists apply for this funding to further strengthen their research projects, making them eligible for other funding.
The largest component of the gift establishes an innovation fund which will create an entrepreneurial platform for physicians with new ideas, promoting collaboration between scientists and researchers to conceptualize and develop solutions for advancing treatments across disciplines.
The final portion of the gift was directed to the Houston Methodist Employee Relief Fund to support those who suffered significant losses from Hurricane Harvey. Already, the fund has supported more than 5,000 employees who applied for assistance.
“The Walters are treasured members of our Houston Methodist family, so we are deeply moved by their generosity,” said Marc Boom, M.D., president and CEO of Houston Methodist. “This gift will fund some of the world’s best physicians and scientists, bringing important cures and treatments to our patients. The gift is especially meaningful because our organizations are closely aligned, sharing a commitment to innovation, our community and our employees. We are honored to recognize the Walters by naming our new patient tower after them.”
The Paula and Joseph C. “Rusty” Walter III Tower in the Texas Medical Center is scheduled to open in mid-2018. The 21-story tower will house 366 patient beds and high-tech operating room suites for neurosurgery and cardiovascular surgery, two intensive care floors, six acute care floors and a helipad. This 954,705-square-foot tower will serve Houston Methodist’s growing patient population.
Rusty has served on the Houston Methodist Board of Directors since 2006. Joseph C. Walter Jr., Rusty’s father, was a devoted hospital board member for more than 30 years and underwent a lifesaving heart transplant at Houston Methodist. Some of the family’s other gifts to Houston Methodist include the Joseph C. “Rusty” Walter and Carole Walter Looke Presidential Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Disease Research, the Emily Herrmann Cancer Research Laboratory and two endowed chairs for cancer research, the Houston Methodist J.C. Walter Jr. Transplant Center and the Coordinated Stroke Intervention and Stroke Stem Cell Research Program.