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Ensuring a lasting impact

To ensure his program’s future, Eli Coleman, Ph.D., has pledged his entire estate in support of the Medical School’s Chair in Sexual Health, which he now holds.

Director of the Program in Human Sexuality makes another commitment to his program through an estate gift

For years Eli Coleman, Ph.D., has been the media’s go-to source for stories about sexual health. Need to know about the effectiveness of sex education in schools? Need a quote about how to rehabilitate sex offenders? How about stopping the spread of HIV? Coleman’s your man.

A longtime professor and director of the Program in Human Sexuality in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, Coleman has built his career at the University of Minnesota.

As he was completing his Ph.D. in counseling and student personnel psychology here in 1978 during the “sexual revolution,” he noticed a lack of knowledge about human sexuality. So immediately after receiving his doctorate, he joined the faculty of the Medical School’s Program in Human Sexuality, which had been established seven years earlier.

“Trying to understand and help resolve sexual problems became a very critical need, and I became aware of how little research was done in the area,” he says. “There were never-ending questions to answer.”

The Program in Human Sexuality has since grown into one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive centers for sexual health treatment, research, and education. And although he believes there are still plenty of questions left to answer, today Coleman’s work is nationally and internationally known. His research covers a wide variety of topics: sexual orientation, compulsive sexual behavior, gender identity disorder, psychological and pharmacologic treatment of sexual disorders, and sexual health promotion.

To recognize his achievements, the Medical School last year named Coleman the inaugural holder of its Chair in Sexual Health, the first of its kind in the world.

The endowed chair is currently funded with more than $4 million in private donations made through the Minnesota Medical Foundation. The funding, to be used at the chair holder’s discretion, supports research, education, patient care, public policy advocacy, and efforts to recruit and retain top faculty members.

Coleman is proud to be recognized in this way, and he wants to make sure someone else will have this honor in the future. Through a planned gift, Coleman in October pledged his entire estate in support of the Chair in Sexual Health.

“I wanted to ensure that the program’s legacy would continue, recognizing that many sexuality programs have disappeared when faculty retired or died,” he says. “The program has been my life’s work. I owe the University of Minnesota for giving me this opportunity, and I want to make sure that it’s there for others in the future.”

Medical School Dean Deborah E. Powell, M.D., says Coleman’s gift further proves his “profound” commitment to the field of sexual health. “Dr. Coleman already gives so much as the first holder of this chair,” she says. “To have him dedicate his estate to the future of the chair is extraordinary.”

Coleman also hopes his gift will encourage more faculty members to support their academic departments.

“I hope that they will think about the needs of the institution in the future and realize that we simply cannot take the University for granted,” he says.

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