First Endowed Dean Chairs at UAB Established in the School of Medicine and School of Nursing
UAB’s continued growth owes a great debt to the strength of its visionary leaders. To help the university continue to thrive under the guidance of such great leaders, two generous donors have established endowed chairs to support the deans of the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing.
James C. (Jimbo) Lee III, chairman and CEO of Buffalo Rock Company, has made a gift of $1.5 million toward the James C. Lee, Jr., Endowed Chair for the Dean of the School of Medicine to which matching funds will be added to bring the dean’s chair to $2 million. Similarly, Fay B. Ireland has made a gift of $1.5 million to UAB to establish the Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair for the Dean of the School of Nursing. Additional matching funds also have been pledged toward this endowment to bring it to a total of $2 million as well.
These chairs will benefit these two schools by supporting their missions of education, clinical care, and research and ensuring the schools are able to recruit and retain the finest leadership to guide them in the coming decades.
Continuing a Father’s Legacy
|The late Jimmy Lee|
Jimbo Lee made his gift in memory of his father, James C. (Jimmy) Lee Jr., who passed away in 2009. The gift guarantees continued support of the School of Medicine. “Dad had given a lot of time, and Buffalo Rock had given financially to the School of Medicine,” Lee says. “He was excited about medicine and had pursued supporting it so passionately, so it was a natural fit to support this chair. I think he would be pleased. Everybody I’ve talked to thinks so much of Ray Watts [M.D., dean of the School of Medicine]. It’s a great honor for Dad to be associated with this endowment.”
“I am extremely grateful to Mr. Lee and the Lee family for the establishment of this chair,” Dr. Watts says. “Mr. Lee and his family have been great friends and supporters of UAB and our community for many years. I consider it a great honor to be the first holder of this chair named in honor of James C. Lee Jr., who was a stalwart of our community throughout his lifetime.”
Jimmy Lee successfully led Buffalo Rock for decades as it became the largest single-family owned, privately held Pepsi-Cola operation in the country, a status it retains today. His numerous awards and honors include the first Birmingham Service Award in 1983 and his induction into the prestigious Alabama Academy of Honor in 1987. In 1972, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Alabama Soft Drink Association and in 1978 received the Beverage Man of the Year Award. In 1987 he was inducted into the Beverage Industry Hall of Fame, and he also was the first bottler to be inducted into Pepsi-Cola’s Ring of Honor. When Lee was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in 1999, former Vice President Dan Quayle addressed him as a leader who exhibited honesty, integrity, and ethics.
Lee served as president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and held leadership and service positions with Operation New Birmingham, the Birmingham Metropolitan Development Board, the Pepsi-Cola Bottlers Association, and the Birmingham-Southern College Board of Trustees. He was a member of the boards of directors of the former Compass Bank and the Baptist Health Foundation. At UAB, he served faithfully on the UAB President’s Council and was a senior presidential advisor, and he also was a member of the board of directors of the UA Health Services Foundation.
Especially generous to UAB, Lee supported various programs and units through his personal gifts as well as through gifts from Buffalo Rock. Areas that have benefited include UAB’s Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center, UAB Athletics, the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the School of Medicine, UAB Hospital, the Fund for Excellence, the School of Nursing, the Division of Neurosurgery, and WBHM Public Radio, among others. The Lee family also established the James Coleman Lee Sr. Endowed Scholarship in Nursing, and the James C. and Elizabeth T. Lee Chair in Biochemistry is named for the Lee family as well.
“This generous gift comes to UAB in a unique and very exciting time in the field of medicine,” Dr. Watts adds. “With many great challenges before us, I believe we have an opportunity to reshape and strengthen our ability to care for patients and accelerate research efforts that will lead to new treatments and cures for diseases that plague our society. I am most appreciative to Mr. Lee and the Lee family for partnering with us to achieve our ambitious goal of increasing UAB’s position as a leading medical institution in the United States.”
A Passion for Nursing
Fay Ireland’s support of the endowed chair in UAB’s School of Nursing is a result of her getting to know and admire the school through her service on its Board of Visitors (BOV). Since 1993, she has been a member of this community board that raises money for and spreads community awareness about the school.
“It was through the Board of Visitors that I reconnected with nursing,” says Ireland, a former nurse and the daughter of a nurse. “I am proud that UAB’s School of Nursing consistently is ranked high among nursing schools around the nation.”
During World War II, Ireland joined the United States Cadet Nurse Corps, a nurse-training program funded by the federal government to ease the wartime nursing shortage. While in the corps, she graduated from the baccalaureate nursing school operated for years by Cornell University and New York Hospital in New York City before it closed in 1979. After returning to Birmingham, she worked as a senior public-health nurse in rural Jefferson County for the Jefferson County Department of Health before her marriage to the late William R. Ireland Sr.
“Fay Ireland has been a leader and role model in nursing and philanthropy in this community and throughout Alabama,” says Doreen Harper, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing, who also graduated from Cornell University’s nursing school. “She was raised in Birmingham and lived here most of her life. So it is particularly significant that she would establish this chair, leaving a lasting imprint on her legacy at UAB’s School of Nursing. This endowment will allow us to further develop interprofessional leadership initiatives to advance nursing education, service, and research to improve quality and outcomes of care.”
“Dr. Harper is innovative,” Ireland says. “I particularly admire her ability to lead a modern-day faculty in hands-on education of nursing students as well as her ability and track record in sharing and collaborating with other components of UAB and outside entities.”
This endowment is another in a long history of contributions made to various components of UAB by the Irelands. “My husband always felt that UAB is such a strong community asset and so good for our city,” Mrs. Ireland says.
The Ireland family’s many contributions to UAB have directly benefited the School of Nursing, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology, the Comprehensive Cancer Center, UAB Athletics, and other programs and units on campus, including UAB’s Alys Robinson Stephens Performing Arts Center, of which Mrs. Ireland is an honorary member of the advisory board. She also has served on the boards of directors of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Glenwood Autism & Behavioral Health Center.
In 1999, Mrs. Ireland gave funds to establish the Fay B. Ireland Endowed Nursing Scholarship, which has positively influenced the lives of many nursing students. To pay tribute to her many efforts on behalf of the School of Nursing, she was recognized as the honorary chair for the BOV’s signature scholarship fund-raising event, M*A*S*H (Make Another Scholarship Happen), in 2009.
The Ireland family’s generational support of the university has spanned decades and resulted in the establishment of other perpetual funds at UAB including the Katherine Reynolds Ireland Chair of Pediatrics, the Kathy Ireland Chair in Psychiatric Research, and the Charles Byron Ireland Chair of Psychiatric Research.
Maintaining the Momentum / Winter 2011