Goldenson Building Dedicated At HMS

Gift is Largest Ever To Medical School

The Medical School yesterday dedicated a newly-renovated research building, the first part of a plan by donors to earmark $60 million to neuroscience.

The gift, given by Isabelle and Leonard Goldenson, is the largest donation ever made to the school in its 212-year history.

The Isabella and Leonard Goldenson Biomedical Research Building, which houses 30 laboratories, will focus on brain and other neuro-science research.

"This is a memorable day in Harvard's history," said President Neil L. Rudenstine in a speech at the dedication. "It marks one of the greatest moments of philanthropy in the University's entire 358 years."

Leonard H. Goldenson '27, founder of the American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), and his wife Isabella have supported neuroscience research and care for the handicapped ever since their daughter Genise was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

The Goldensons have promised 90 percent of their combined estates--estimated at $60 million--to a series of planned gifts for the Medical School.

The gifts for the Medical School.

The gift is the eighth largest ever given to higher education by an individual donor.

More than 50 science faculty members and personal friends of the Goldensons attended the dedication ceremony, in which Dean of the Medical School Daniel C. Tosteson '46, awarded the donors an honorary medal.

"Ignorance and despair were standard treatment for cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders in [the 1940s]," Mr. Goldenson said in a speech at the occasion. "We are here today to dedicate a facility that embodies and inspires hope and commitment. It will be a place to practice science that was unimaginable in 1948."

Mr. Goldenson said he recognized that preventing diseases of the brain like cerebral palsy was ultimately dependent on basic research.

Harvard faculty members agreed.

"We've learned a tremendous amount about the brain in the last generation," said Dr. Gerald D. Fischbach, chair of the neurobiology department at the Medical School. "But from the issue of further understanding and control it's very important to delve into the inner sanctum and understand how individual components in the brain work."

The facility, constructed in 1906 and formerly called Building B, will be under renovation for the next three to five years, Fischbach said.

Though most of the infrastructure has been finished, particular layouts most still be resolved, Fischbach added.

The Medical School will recruit new researchers to fill about 20 percent of the building's laboratory space which is now empty.

"It's a great opportunity actually for recruiting over the next years," Fischbach said.

Though renovations are proceeding in the building, the specific apportionment and disbursement of the $60 million in gift funds has not yet been fully settled, said Susan S. Sherwin, associate dean.

"That's what's so wonderful about it: it's not planned for specific uses as far as I know," Fischbach said.

At least some of the funds will support an annual lectureship in honor of Genise Goldenson, Tosteson said.

In 1948, the Goldenson couple founded the United Cerebral Palsy Fund, a national organization devoted to promoting preventive research and educating the public about this neurological disorder.

Mrs. Goldenson has also led efforts to apply space technology to make wheelchairs lighter and convince businesses to reserve parking spaces for the handicapped.

Dr. Elio Raviols, professor of neuroanatomy, said interest in neuroscience is growing dramatically, as evidenced by the Goldenson gift and the possibility of cresting a new concentration in the neurosciences at the College.

"We have reached a stage really in which we can tackle the most fundamental questions of the neural system. It is a combination of molecular biology, electrical physiology and structural technology," Raviols said.

The Goldenson gift should allow the Medical School to maintain its leadership role in this rapidly expanding field.Photo Courtesy Harvard Medical SchoolDr. GERALD D. FISCHBACH