Donor Profiles 2017-06-19T09:35:36+00:00

Donor Profiles

Gary Cless Northbrook, Illinois Grateful Patient

Gary Cless

Northbrook, Illinois
Grateful Patient

“Having had a personal experience with a serious eye disease, it is my pleasure to make gifts that help to advance vision science toward finding better treatments and potentially a cure for retinal and eye diseases.” Read more

Peter Mancini Parent Petroleum Donor

Peter Mancini

Parent Petroleum
Donor

“We are extremely proud to support the research being conducted by Dr. Grassi and his team of scientists and investigators.” Read more

The Panton Family River Forest, Illinois Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary – Residency Alumni

The Panton Family

River Forest, Illinois
Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary
– Residency Alumni

“You want to give back to the institutions that made your success possible. We want to help the place where we learned ophthalmology.” Read more

Marie Wilkinson Donor –In memory of her husband

Marie Wilkinson

Donor
–In memory of her
husband

The positive impact of Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson’s generosity is felt by patients now and in the future who will benefit from this research. Their legacy of helping lives on. Read More

Leslie Julia Baber, MD Residency Alumna —Remembered by her family and friends

Leslie Julia Baber, MD

Residency Alumna
—Remembered by her family and friends

The family of Julie Baber chose to remember her with donations to the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary library, her place of peace during her residency. Read more

Donor Profile

Gary Cless, The Cless Family Foundation

Gary Cless Northbrook, Illinois Grateful PatientGerhard Cless first came to know the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences in 1995 when he was referred for treatment for a macular hole.  Since then, his foundation has supported research, patient care and education through over $1.75-million in philanthropic giving.  The most recent gift from the Foundation provides $500,000 over three years for the Cless Discovery Science in Vision Fund, providing support for basic science investigations, and the Cless Family Foundation Fund for Education in Ophthalmology, which provides funding for a clinical fellowship annually.

“Having had a personal experience with a serious eye disease, it is my pleasure to make gifts that help to advance vision science toward finding better treatments and potentially a cure for retinal and eye diseases,” Mr. Cless stated in a 2009 annual report by the Department.

Mr. Cless, who earned a master’s degree in engineering in his native Germany, is co-founder of Zebra Technologies, a global provider of business improvement and security applications.

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Donor Profile

Parent Petroleum offers hope to those with blindness

Peter Mancini, Ann Rasch, Michael Grassi and Joseph Aliperta

On October 23, 2014, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences welcomed Parent Petroleum to thank the company for its longstanding support and present a plaque in gratitude.

For the past 17 years, Parent Petroleum has hosted an annual golf outing to benefit vision research.  In August 2014, Parent Petroleum, along with annual lead event sponsor, BP, raised nearly $100k for vision research in the Department Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.  This contribution funds research into treatments and cures for retinal degenerative diseases.

Michael Grassi, MD leads the multidisciplinary effort in the Retinal Chemical Genomics Laboratory which has been directly impacted by Parent Petroleum and its supporters this year.  “On behalf of those individuals affected by vision loss, I would like to recognize the extraordinary support of Parent Petroleum.  Parent’s unflagging commitment to research into the causes and treatments of blinding disease will accelerate discoveries that lead to the cures of tomorrow.   Through their generosity, Parent Petroleum, together with their sponsors, are helping to usher in a new era in the care of these patients.  Parent has become a driving force for a better future for those who are confronted with blindness,” stated Dr. Grassi.

On hand to accept the plaque from Dr. Grassi was Peter Mancini, President of Parent Petroleum;  Joseph Aliperta, Brands Coordinator for Parent Petroleum; and Ann Rasch, Community Organizer.

The University of Illinois College of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences expresses its gratitude to Parent Petroleum – its leadership, supporters, sponsors and volunteers – for continuing to support this work and making a difference in the lives of patients living with retinal degenerative disease.

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Donor Profile

The Panton Family

From left: Dr. John H. Panton, Mary Karakourtis Panton, Dr. Elizabeth Panton Karkazis, Dr. Robert W. Panton and Dr. Peter J. Panton
Mary Karakourtis Panton would often tell her children that “Excellence is permanent.” This was how she paraphrased her husband, who was fond of quoting Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The success of the Panton Eye Center and the family’s history of giving to the Department of Ophthalmology suggest they took heradvice to heart. Dr. John Panton speaks warmly of the doctors who trained him,in particular Dr. William F. Hughes and Dr. Peter C. Kronfeld. Pointing to the facility in which he and his children have practiced for the past 20 years, he said, “All that we have here, all that we do here, is because of the good teachers at the Infirmary.”

“You want to give back to the institutions that made your success possible,” said Dr. Peter Panton. “We want to help the place where we learned ophthalmology.”

The Panton family’s history of giving to the Department of Ophthalmology dates back to the 1980s when they contributed to the effort to build the Lions of Illinois Eye Research Institute. In the past decade, they contributed to endowed professorships for Drs. Morton F. Goldberg, Joel Sugar and Jacob T. Wilensky. In 2007, Peter and Robert Panton joined with the children of Arnold D. Curnyn, MD, Res ’65 (Kimberlee M. Curnyn, MD, Res ’95), the late Harold Q. Kirk, MD, Res ’53 (Ann Kirk Williams, MD, Res ’87 and her husband Douglas P. Williams, MD, Res ’87), and Karl E. Ticho, MD, Res ’57 (Benjamin H. Ticho, MD, Res ‘91), to establish the Four Fathers Lecture in Ophthalmology.

The Panton family also established a professorship in Modern Greek Studies at UIC. They have given generously to the National Hellenic Museum, located near UIC in Chicago’s Greektown.

“We are so grateful to the Panton family for their generosity as loyal alumni of the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary,” says Dr. Rohit Varma, Department Chair.

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Donor Profile

In Memory of our Good and Caring Friend, Marie E. Wilkinson

Marie Wilkinson Donor –In memory of her husbandMarie E. Wilkinson, a generous donor to the Illinois Eye Fund since 1988 when she made her initial gift in memory of her late husband, Herbert Wilkinson, passed away in June, 2011.  She was 100 years old.  Herbert passed away in June 1988.

Marie and Herbert Wilkinson were partners in life in every way including their philanthropy.  Herbert was a long time executive with Abbott Laboratories where he began his career in 1930.   He was president and director of Abbot Laboratories.  He retired in 1971 and then served as president of the Board of the Clara Abbott Foundation and as vice president of the Abbott Laboratories Fund.

Marie and Herbert met in Cincinnati and moved to Chicago when he joined Abbott.  They settled in Lake Forest in 1957 and had three children, Carol Keenan of Chicago, Janet W. (Thomas M.) Leopold of Winnetka, and the late Herbert S. Wilkinson, Jr.   Marie also leaves two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. 
 
Herbert Wilkinson’s association with the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences started in the late 1980’s as a patient.  His philanthropy started soon afterwards, and he became deeply committed to the Department and its research and patient care programs.  Upon his death, Marie continued Herbert’s devotion to the Department for another 20 years through continued philanthropy supporting a variety of research programs and equipment purchases.

Marie Wilkinson trained as a nurse as a young woman and did part of her medical training in Appalachia.  She was passionate about helping others and making a difference.  As an avid gardener, she loved to see things grow and develop.  Her desire to help others was demonstrated also by her volunteer activities with several organizations including her church, the First Presbyterian Church in Lake Forest and the Boarder Babies program in Chicago.

According to Patricia Wager, former executive director of development at the University of Illinois Medical Center who worked with Mrs. Wilkinson since the late 1980’s, “Helping people was a central part of Mrs. Wilkinson’s life.  She demonstrated this wonderful quality through her contributions to the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences to support eye research for 25 years in memory of her husband.  These gifts were instrumental in helping the researchers develop new treatments and cures for eye disease and blindness.

The positive impact of Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson’s generosity is felt by patients now and in the future who will benefit from this research.  Their legacy of helping lives on.”

Among the research programs that received support from Mrs. Wilkinson’s generous donations to the Illinois Eye Fund are the Photoreceptor Research Laboratory directed by David Pepperberg, Ph.D., the Ocular Virology Research Laboratory directed by Deepak Shukla, Ph.D., and the Retinal Circulation and Metabolism Laboratory directed by Norman Blair, M.D.  Most recently, research funding has been provided to one of the Department’s young clinician scientists. Soledad Cortina, M.D.  Dr. Cortina’s research focuses on the study of corneal nerves and possible treatments that will speed corneal nerve recovery.  In addition, Marie’s gifts made possible the acquisition of a state of the art instrument to rapidly measure the concentration of proteins and other biomolecules in a variety of basic science experiments.  The ForteBio’s new Octet RED96 system will foster new vision science discoveries.

“These are just a few examples of the important vision research activity that has been greatly aided by Marie Wilkinson’s generosity,” stated Dr. Dimitri Azar, Dean of the College of Medicine, B.A. Field Endowed Chair of Ophthalmologic Research and Professor and former Head, of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.  “Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson understood that research in vision and ophthalmology would improve the quality of care and quality of life for everyone suffering from vision loss or blindness, today and for generations to come.  We are deeply indebted to them.”

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Donor Profile

 Leslie Julia Baber, MD ’01, Res ’05, remembered by her family and friends with donations to IEEI Library

Leslie Julia Baber, MD ’01, Res ’05, remembered by her family and friends with donations to IEEI Library

Former Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary resident Leslie Julia Baber passed away in January 2009 at age 37 after a long battle against cancer.  Her husband, Ronan O’Malley, requested that gifts in her memory be made to the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary Library, which he says she “cherished as a refuge from the fast pace and stress of her ophthalmology residency.”

Dr. Baber, a Texas native, came north to attend the University of Chicago where she met Mr. O’Malley as an undergraduate. Her intellectual curiosity led her to try many different courses before deciding to be a doctor her senior year, a late decision that required she take an additional year of pre-med courses.  She proved to be an outstanding medical student, making the dean’s list every year at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and becoming a member of the medical honor society, Alpha Omega Alpha.

Her decision to pursue ophthalmology was influenced by her future father-in-law Patrick O’Malley, a retina specialist in South Bend, Indiana, with whom Dr. Baber spent many holidays.  “She went to watch him work a couple times,” recalled Ronan O’Malley.  “She enjoyed technical, detail-oriented things, so ophthalmology suited her, particularly micro-surgery. She was good with her hands. She had a delicate touch.”

Dr. Baber thrived on her interaction with the children she treated. “She was an incredible pediatric ophthalmologist,” says Jo Adamcik, the executive assistant to David Granet MD, director of the University of California at San Diego’s Ratner Children’s Eye Center, where Dr. Baber was on staff when she passed away.  Dr. Marilyn Miller, former director of UIC’s Pediatric Ophthalmology Service, agrees.  “I remember Julie as an excellent resident with outstanding skills, knowledge and great compassion.  She was wonderful with children and appreciated by their parents and everyone in our section.”

Dr. Baber collaborated on a forthcoming book about children’s eye diseases with Dr. Granet throughout her intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  When it is published, the book will hold an honored place in the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary Library.

To date, more than $10,000 has been given in Julie Baber’s name by her classmates, family members and other donors from across the country. The money is being used to purchase educational materials primarily focused on pediatric ophthalmology.

The bookplate designed for Baber fund acquisitions features a daisy, a tribute to Julie’s love of gardening and her high school basketball team, the Daisies.

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