PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — On a day when the leadership of Brown University gathered to formally dedicate the new home of The Warren Alpert Medical School, the University also celebrated another form of dedication: the Alpert family’s philanthropic focus on improving human health. By a vote of Brown’s Board of Fellows, the University conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters (L.H.D.) on Herbert M. Kaplan, president of the Warren Alpert Foundation and CEO of Warren Equities.
“Because of his unwavering commitment to the Warren Alpert Foundation’s vision of advancing health care and medical science research, Herb Kaplan continues to make an important difference for the well-being of millions of people,” said Brown University President Ruth J. Simmons. “The foundation has transformed medical education at Brown and, by extension, medicine across Rhode Island and beyond. With this degree, we proudly recognize Herb’s dedication to helping sustain and enhance all of our lives through better health.”
In the citation accompanying his degree, the Board of Fellows noted that Kaplan, who is Warren Alpert’s nephew, has “contributed in numerous ways to the improvement of the quality of national healthcare, through his support of hospitals, biomedical research and academic medical centers.”
A graduate of Hobart College, Kaplan earned his M.B.A. from Babson College. In addition to his responsibilities as CEO of Warren Equities, Kaplan serves on the Medical School Committee of the Corporation of Brown University and is a member of the Board of Fellows of the Harvard Medical School. He is a founding member of the Noble Deeds Society of the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and serves as an honorary trustee of the Brookings Institute. Kaplan and his wife, Alida, divide their time between Providence, Manhattan, and Amagansett, on Long Island. He has a grown daughter, Bevin.
The foundation and the company, which operates petroleum wholesale and retail businesses, have supported academic and medical institutions throughout the northeast, from Maryland to Boston. Annually since 1987, the foundation has awarded a prize — currently $200,000 — to biomedical researchers who contribute “breakthroughs in the understanding and curing of major diseases.” Earlier this month the foundation announced that its 2011 honorees were bioengineering luminaries Alain F. Carpentier and Robert S. Langer.
The Alpert Medical School’s new home
The single most important and generous philanthropic act of the foundation, however, was to pledge $100 million to Brown’s medical school in 2007 to support research, curriculum development, financial aid and the construction of a new medical education building. The gift led to a transformation that is much greater than the school’s name. The new building, which opened on the first day of classes in August, is the first dedicated exclusively to the medical school in its nearly 40-year history.
The renovated former factory and office building, provides 133,000 square feet of space including a bright, new, well-ventilated anatomy lab, auditoriums and seminar classrooms, “academies” where students can study and socialize, and a “bookless” library where students can study vast electronically stored collections of information and knowledge.
While the building promises to elevate the Alpert Medical School’s educational mission, it also adds an important new ingredient to the burgeoning life sciences industry in the city’s Jewelry District. Rhode Island’s entire congressional delegation, the governor and the mayor attended the August opening and often remarked that the building would help usher in a brighter economic future for the state.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee, for example, said the building opening would be a keystone in efforts to marshal the state’s institutions around economic growth.
“The catalyst is this new building here,” Chafee said. “So thank you to the Warren Alpert Foundation, to Herb Kaplan, for all you’ve done.”
That’s Herb Kaplan, doctor of humane letters, honoris causa.