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A smart gift to a topflight MHA program

Don and Janet Wegmiller

If it’s true, as philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said, that “it’s more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place,” then Don and Janet Wegmiller’s recent gift to the University of Minnesota School of Public Health’s Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) program should score high on Carnegie’s IQ test.

The couple’s decision to establish the Wegmiller Professorship in Healthcare Administration through a $1 million endowment came from a deep understanding of not only how the program educates, but how it shapes lives.

With their endowment, they want to publicly support what Don Wegmiller calls “the best health care administration program in the country.”

“The MHA program formed not just the basis of our professional lives but also of our personal lives,” says Wegmiller, who earned his MHA in 1962 and now is chairman of the health care organizations C-Suite Resources and the Scottsdale Institute. “When something like that has been so important to you over five decades, it becomes a very easy decision to say, ‘This is where we should allocate some of our resources.’”

Daniel Zismer, Ph.D., the MHA program’s director, will be the first person to hold the new professorship.

From a strictly pragmatic viewpoint, the endowment means that Zismer, and those who succeed him as director, will have access to discretionary funds to help with such things as supporting emerging research priorities and recruiting top-notch students and faculty.

“But the professorship is about much more than dollars,” Zismer says. “It adds a status to the program that shows the marketplace that we are supported by top industry professionals like Don.”

Wegmiller, who was recently inducted into the prestigious Modern Healthcare Hall of Fame, lauds Zismer’s work, crediting him with re-energizing and improving an already outstanding program since he took the reins as director in early 2010.

“Today’s MHA students will face daunting challenges as the industry changes from a volume-based to a value-based system,” Wegmiller says, “and the program will continue to need support from all of its alumni. Janet and I hope that one of the results of our gift will be to stimulate others … to say, ‘Maybe we should do something like this, too.’”

By Barbara Knox

To learn more about supporting the School of Public Health’s MHA program, contact Adam Buhr at 612-626-2391 or adambuhr@umn.edu.

Or visit www.give.umn.edu/giveto/mha-gm to make an online gift.

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