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Building medical student success

The Boulger family: Jim Jr., seated, with his brother, Peter, and parents, Dee and Jim Sr. (Phot: Dan Schleis)

Boulger spirit inspires Duluth scholarships

James Boulger, Ph.D., professor of behavioral sciences and director of alumni relations at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus, is widely known for his commitment to medical students. But this year, the Boulger name became truly synonymous with boosting student success.

Last November, Medical School, Duluth Campus alumni Randall Card, M.D., Kristi Elliott, M.D., and Michael Heck, M.D., decided to honor the longtime professor, adviser, and advocate. With help from the Minnesota Medical Foundation (MMF), they asked their Duluth classmates to help build a major scholarship in Boulger’s honor.

In his letter to classmates, Card wrote: “If your experience was like mine, you’ll agree that Jim believed that everyone attending the UMD School of Medicine was special. In that spirit, I am encouraging everyone who attended the Duluth school to contribute to this scholarship.”

By December, a committed group of alumni, community leaders, and faculty had contributed more than $28,000 to help establish the James Boulger Endowed Scholarship. Pledges and gifts to the fund are now up to $160,000 and growing.

“I am honored to be remembered in this way by former students who are now friends and colleagues,” says Boulger. “Scholarships are so critical if we are to continue to accept those students most likely to fulfill the school’s mission to the citizens of Minnesota — and particularly those who are underserved in rural areas and in Native American communities.”

A family affair

Meanwhile, Medical School, Duluth alumna Stephanie K. Carlson, M.D., Class of ‘94, was devising her own plan to honor the Boulger name. In September 2009 the Mayo Clinic diagnostic and interventional radiologist pledged $50,000 in her estate plan to establish a scholarship recognizing Boulger’s son, James Jr.

A self-described sports enthusiast, Carlson met Jim Jr. when they both worked in UMD’s sports information office. Jim Jr. shares her enthusiasm for sports even though a form of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (MD) prevents him from participating himself.

Nonetheless, Jim Jr., now 43, has never let MD get in his way, says Carlson. “He was always positive and courageous.” The James Boulger Junior and Stephanie K. Carlson Scholarship, she says, is a way to help students and thank those, like Jim Jr., who have inspired her.

Another good turn

But there’s more to the story. Last February, at an MMF event in Rochester, Carlson was invited to speak about her motivation for creating the scholarship. James Sr., his wife, Dee, and James Jr. also attended and made a surprise announcement: They were pledging $25,000 to begin the scholarship immediately.

Carlson was thrilled. Just one month later, she matched the family’s pledge, adding another $25,000 to the current scholarship — for a total of $50,000 in active pledges and another $50,000 in the estate gift.

“Support from generous folks like Stephanie Carlson makes it possible for our students to attain their dreams of helping the underserved,” says James Boulger Sr. “None of us succeeds on our own.”

By Michelle Juntunen

To learn more or to support Medical School, Duluth Campus scholarships, please contact Michelle Juntunen at 218-726-6876 or [](

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