Founding of the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences
The year was 1973. UT Southwestern Medical Center was known as The University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas. Charles C. Sprague, M.D., had been named its president the previous October, and Frederick J. Bonte, M.D., replaced him as Dean of Southwestern Medical School in April 1973.
Following a successful fund drive by Southwestern Medical Foundation in 1971, the University had begun an $8.4 million building project that would totally transform the look of the Medical School campus.
In the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Paul C. MacDonald, M.D., had assumed the Chairmanship in 1970. He and former chairman, Jack A. Pritchard, M.D., shared a vision of improving health care for women and reducing the rate of adverse pregnancy outcomes while also providing women with access to family planning services.
Dr. Pritchard believed that medical care needed to be evidence based. As Chairman (1955-1970), he had focused the Department’s research efforts on investigating the biological mechanisms that drive normal and pathological medical outcomes in women.
Dr. MacDonald – a product of this environment – was interested in identifying the mechanisms that triggered human labor. As Chairman (1970-1976), he continued this research effort.
The University had previously received approval (1970) from the Board of Regents to establish a Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences to be led by Dr. MacDonald. Assembling a nucleus of M.D.'s and Ph.D.'s from various departments, Dr. MacDonald had submitted an ambitious research proposal to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health.
This multi-project grant, in Dr. MacDonald’s words, “concerns itself with the investigation of the basic biochemical foundations of the initiation of uterine contractions in pregnant women that eventuate in the delivery of her child.” Later, describing this proposal to Mr. Green, he went on to say,
"... we are primarily concerned with the obligation of medical and biomedical research to fulfill our collective obligation to ensure, to the best of our ability, that each child that is born is well born. A better quality of life can obtain only if physical and mental maladies of the newborn child are principally eliminated. One of the primary deterrents to such excellence of newborn life is prematurity – and yet we do not know even the physiologic basis for the initiation of parturition."
From letter dated September 24, 1973
It was with this context and environment as background that the Green's – who had contributed $1 million to the medical school expansion project – approached UT System Chancellor, Charles A. “Mickey” LeMaistre, M.D., about endowing a chair at the medical school in Dallas.
In his letter to Dr. Sprague in August, 1973, Dr. LeMaistre suggested that the chair might be used to “emphasize family planning and genetic counseling as well as pre-natal care” – topics that especially interested Ida Green.
Following a meeting with the Green’s in October, Dr. Sprague wrote Cecil Green proposing,
"…that the Center be designated the Ida and Cecil Green Center for Reproductive Biology, and additionally that the endowed chair be named the Ida and Cecil Green Chair in Obstetrics and Gynecology. We are anxious to have attention focused on the problems of reproductive biology as they relate to the quality of life of a new-born child. At the same time we are anxious to recognize the accomplishments of the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and its present chairman, Dr. MacDonald, which have brought it to the forefront of our peer schools around the world. Your gift could accomplish both and I have no reason to believe that such a proposal would not be received favorably by the Board of Regents."
From letter dated October 22, 1973
As originally envisioned, the Center would bring together UT System components in reproductive biology as well as UT Southwestern academic departments and their research divisions under the leadership of a research director and scientific coordinator. The Center would include research divisions in neurosciences, endocrinology, biochemistry, immunology, genetics, embryology teratology, and aging.
This infrastructure would be wed with a core laboratory and the clinical components of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology – all under the leadership of a Center “chairman” – as Center directors were called then. An external advisory Coordinating Board for the Cooperative Study of Reproductive Biology made up of experts in the field would be formed to advise the chairman.
In mid December, Dr. Sprague sent a revised proposal to the Greens suggesting that the Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences and an endowed chair be named in their honor.
The revised Proposal for the Establishment of the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences included a description of the Quality of Life Model Community – a community-based health care system for indigent women in Dallas County.
In documents submitted to the Board of Regents, Cecil and Ida Green made an irrevocable gift to the University of Texas System for the “exclusive use and benefit of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Southwestern Medical School.”
The purpose of the gift is to provide a fund for an endowed Distinguished Chair in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Southwestern Medical School, to be occupied by the Chairman of that Department whose work and leadership is directed toward the forefront of new knowledge, research and understanding, in Fetal, Maternal, and Population Life Sciences. You advise that the Regents have chosen Dr. Paul MacDonald to be the first appointee to this Chair.
At the February 10, 1974, meeting of the Board of Regents, the establishment of an endowed chair was approved. And the Center was officially named the Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences.
In 1976, the Green’s pledged to increase the endowment for the Green Chair from $600,000 to $1 million over a three-year period. (In 1988, the Board of Regents changed the name to the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Reproductive Biology Sciences.)
In 1978, Cecil and Ida Green pledged $3.4 million to support training for students and professionals who wanted to participate in the activities of the Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences. Known internally as the Green Training Fund, the gift came with the proviso that the UT System contribute an additional $600,000. On February 7, 1978, the Board of Regents accepted the gift and the proviso, thus bringing the total support for the training program to $4 million – and the total endowment for reproductive biology sciences to $5 million.
Why invest so much money in reproductive biology? Probably the best explanation for the Greens’ motivation comes from a letter Mrs. Green wrote to Robert Shrock, the author of Cecil and Ida Green Philanthropists Extraordinary.
“‘Better babies make better people,’ or so we hope.” – Ida Green
From a November 11, 1979, letter to Robert Shrock quoted in Cecil and Ida Green Philanthropists Extraordinary, MIT Press, 1989, p 308.