A $6 million gift from Jim Fitterling, BS ’83 mechanical engineering, is one of the first major gifts from an individual donor for the NextGen Precision Health Institute, the capital priority for the state’s flagship campus.
“Tackling grand challenges, such as treatments for cancer and heart disease, is core to our mission as one of America’s leading research universities,” MU Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright said. “I am thrilled that Jim shares in our vision for this project and our aspirations to transform health care through interdisciplinary research and precision medicine.”
Fitterling is the CEO of Dow. He began working for the company two weeks after his graduation and has spent his entire career with Dow. He has held many leadership positions within the company’s various business units. Additionally, he has been at the forefront of the company’s inclusion and diversity, health and safety, research and sustainability initiatives.
“It is an honor to give back to the university that has given me so much,” Fitterling said. “Knowing that the University of Missouri will be transforming health care also makes me very proud to be a Tiger. As a cancer survivor, I’m keenly interested in advancing research that helps patients and their families enjoy better outcomes and better qualities of life.”
University leaders broke ground on the NextGen Precision Health Institute in June. The facility currently is under construction with an expected completion date of October 2021. Researchers in areas such as engineering, medicine, veterinary medicine, animal sciences and humanities will work in the institute to advance lifesaving research.
“I think Jim saw the strength of our college’s collaborations across campus and he saw NextGen as one of our major priorities—to make that institute a reality, so he really helped us push it forward from his role on my Strategic Advisory Board and as an incredible philanthropist,” said Elizabeth Loboa, vice chancellor for strategic partnerships and dean of engineering. “It gives me hope and inspiration that someone who is running a multinational, multi-billion-dollar company like Dow takes the time to join me for phone calls to think about how he can help his alma mater and how he can help our students, both current and future.”
Research at the institute is expected to accelerate medical breakthroughs for patients in Missouri and beyond, and train a new generation of scientists and practitioners who will help Missouri address the health care needs of the future. The institute will play a key role in the NextGen Precision Health Initiative, which harnesses and supports the research activities of the UM System’s four universities and health system.
“The NextGen Precision Health Initiative will help us bring laboratory research to effective treatments, which will benefit all Missourians as well as the rest of the world,” UM System President Mun Choi said. “Jim’s gift to the institute is a symbol of the dedication of our alumni to our vision of using research to improve the quality of life for everyone.”
The $220.8 million facility is the UM system’s top capital priority and is funded through a combination of private and corporate support, contributions from MU and the UM system, and the state of Missouri. The state of Missouri has contributed $10 million for the institute and university leaders are hoping the state will make further commitments to the project.
“The idea of the NextGen Precision Health Initiative is to go from benchtop to bedside with custom treatments to solve big challenges in areas like cancer, vascular disease and neurological disease,” Fitterling said. “We can harness the power of all of our colleges and of the whole university system to create a signature project that will put the University of Missouri on the map.”
Dean Loboa has served as a leader of the project and has worked closely with Fitterling through his role on the Dean’s Engineering Strategic Advisory Board.
“The NextGen Precision Health Institute will be the epicenter of world-class collaborative research,” Loboa said. “Engineering has a key role to play in bringing the next generation of personalized health to life. As an alumnus and the chair of my Strategic Advisory Board, Jim understands that role, and his support of this endeavor will allow us to take a huge step forward.”
In 2018, Fitterling received the Faculty Alumni Award from the Mizzou Alumni Association for professional accomplishments and service to the university.