$1 Million Gift to UB Medical School Creates New Professorship in Ophthalmology

Release Date: November 9, 2000 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. - The University at Buffalo has received a $1 million gift to endow a professorship in its School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in memory of internationally known ophthalmologist, eye surgeon and UB alumnus Meyer H. Riwchun, M.D.

The gift -- a bequest from Riwchun's wife, Ann S. Riwchun, who died in 1999 - will fund the Meyer H. Riwchun Professorship of Ophthalmology in the Department of Ophthalmology.

Ann Riwchun made the bequest to recognize and continue the work that her husband had pursued as a professor at the university's medical school, in his private practice and as head of eye services for the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II.

UB President William R. Greiner, who had celebrated with Ann Riwchun when told of her intentions last year, praised the well-respected couple who held UB in such esteem.

"Meyer and Ann Riwchun were stellar members not only of the UB family, but the larger Western New York community as well," Greiner noted. "Their work on behalf of the blind was outstanding.

"Dr. Riwchun was a highly regarded ophthalmologist and UB graduate who enjoyed a long and distinguished career in medicine, while his wife was equally dedicated to civic activities,including the presidency of the Buffalo Association for the Blind," Greiner added.

"During their lives, they made a real difference in the quality of life for Western New York residents, and they are continuing to do so through this generous gift to UB's medical school."

The Riwchuns' long-time friend and attorney Wayne Wisbaum, a senior partner at Kavinoky & Cook, said: "The university held a special place in their hearts, and Dr. Riwchun always maintained close ties with UB through his teaching, mentoring and speaking."

Wisbaum added: "Dr. Riwchun felt it was very important to give back to his alma mater and to provide training to young physicians. This desire to repay culminated years later in his decision to donate part of his estate to the university, a desire that was ultimately carried out by his wife's bequest."

An earlier gift to University Archives included books, professional and personal memorabilia, diplomas, awards, photographs and pertinent correspondence that document the life of Meyer Riwchun.

John R. Wright, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, hailed Riwchun as "a leader in the field of eye care, whether he was using innovative surgical techniques or educating medical students and the general public about the issues of good eye care."

He added: "This gift will allow UB to carry on that legacy of leading-edge education in ophthalmology."

Wright said he expects the Riwchun Professor will be named by September 2001.

Riwchun, who died in 1998 at the age of 95, earned his medical degree from UB in 1927, and then trained under European specialists in Austria before returning to Western New York for a long career in medicine. He maintained a private practice from 1929-85, also serving as head of the departments of ophthalmology at The Buffalo General Hospital and at Children's Hospital of Buffalo during the 1960s. Riwchun was attending ophthalmologist at the former Deaconess Hospital and attending ophthalmologist-in-chief at the former Rosa Coplon Home.

During World War II, he was a lieutenant colonel assigned as chief of eye services at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. His patients ranged from enlisted men to high-ranking officers such as General of the Army George C. Marshall, as well as American and foreign diplomats such as Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.

Along with maintaining a private practice, Riwchun taught at UB as a clinical professor in surgery and ophthalmology, was chair of ophthalmology and wrote numerous scientific papers on eye disorders and eye surgery.

Active in professional societies, Riwchun was a diplomate of the American Board of Ophthalmology and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology. Listed in "Who's Who in New York State" and "Who's Who in American Jewry," he also was a member of the Erie County Medical Society and the Buffalo Academy of Medicine.

Riwchun volunteered with the United Way, the United Jewish Fund, the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies and UB's Annual Participating Fund for Medical Education.

Ann Riwchun was equally committed to the community and Wisbaum praised her as "a strong woman, a dedicated mother and wife, and active civic leader." She was the first woman to serve as president of the Buffalo Association for the Blind, chaired the women's division of the United Way and was on the boards of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies and the Jewish Federation of Buffalo. She also served as president of the Women's Committee of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, president of the Camp Lakeland Association and president of the Sisterhood of Temple Beth Zion.

Honored by many organizations for her civic leadership, Ann Riwchun was a Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Woman of the Year and held the Brotherhood Award of the former National Conference of Christians and Jews.

In 1979, Dr. and Mrs. Riwchun were jointly named Buffalo News Outstanding Citizens for their work with the blind.

The Riwchuns' leadership gift is part of UB's $250 million campaign, the largest ever conducted by a public university in New York and New England. Although it's the fifth major fund-raising campaign conducted by UB, it's the first national/international campaign, the first university-wide campaign and the first to be alumni-driven with campaign volunteer leaders from all over the country. Funds raised will used to enrich academic programs, support students ranging from undergraduates to post-doctoral students and to enhance university life.

For information on how you can support the University at Buffalo, go to http://www.buffalo.edu/giving.