Florida couple combines their philanthropic interests with a gift to the Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance

9/7/2023 3:05:27 PM Amy Clay-Moore

“Don’t you think it’s time to give back?”

Ralph Pounds remembers his wife Kathy asking him this question years ago.

The couple was finishing dinner when Kathy mentioned the idea. Kathy and Ralph had spent their adult lives working and saving. Ralph had not considered his family in a financial position to donate and both he and Kathy had grown up hearing stories of the many family members who had immigrated and how hard they had worked to establish themselves.

Ralph recalls Kathy telling him “Many people do not realize they can make a difference with donations small or large. The key is understanding the needs of the institution and finding an area where your donation can help to achieve its objectives.”

Ralph said, “She talked me into it” and “I soon found out how good it feels to help others!”  

The couple has been giving in this way for more than 30 years. Two organizations they care deeply about supporting are the University of Illinois and Mayo Clinic.

A University of Illinois alumna, Kathy has always believed that the relationships she made and education she received at the U of I have played a key role in her professional success and personal growth. Her gratitude inspired her to establish a scholarship fund in the Department of Psychology to support students pursuing degrees in psychology and honor John Fiore, a longtime advisor in the department. The couple is also extremely grateful for the care they have received at Mayo Clinic. Kathy explained they have been fortunate to experience firsthand what a difference having a great medical institution close by can do for a community.

Kathy and Ralph support Mayo Clinic’s work with annual donations including funding to support research in the areas of chronic pain and primary care. 

Working with the University of Illinois Foundation, the Pounds established a charitable remainder trust in 1995. In addition to the Psychology scholarship fund, they started to explore additional ways the remainder interest of their charitable trust could benefit Illinois. Recently they became interested in the Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance.

“We learned that two of our favorite charities were collaborating to advance education, research and outreach. It’s exciting that we can marry these passions,” Kathy explained.  

The Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance for Technology-based Healthcare leverages the technological advances at Illinois and the broad clinical reach and impact of Mayo Clinic to improve the health and lives of families around the globe. The Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute (IHSI) is a major campus driver for the Alliance.  

“With philanthropic support, we envision supporting more student and fellow opportunities that will serve to connect Illinois and Mayo faculty around projects that will not only improve patient care, but also make that care more widely accessible,” said IHSI Director Stephen Boppart, M.D., Ph.D. “Our Alliance represents a unique opportunity for technology-inspired innovations to translate into national and international clinical studies and impact.” 

The remainder funds from Ralph and Kathy’s charitable trust will support programs like the Alliance’s Health Equity Research Experience (HERE) at Mayo Clinic, giving students like Brandon Snipe and Isela Villasenor an opportunity to become fully immersed in the research and culture of a major medical center.

Kathy and Ralph had an opportunity to meet Isela and Brandon, along with Prof. Boppart, during a dinner at their home earlier this summer. Isela and Brandon were completing their research experience at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, not far from where the Pounds live.

Isela and Brandon shared more about the experiences that led to their decisions to pursue careers in health care. Kathy and Ralph were impressed with the scholars’ knowledge and passion for addressing health disparities around mental health and language barriers.

“Meeting Isela and Brandon helped to reinforce that we are going to make a difference in health care with our gift to the Alliance,” said Kathy.

Prof. Boppart is especially grateful to the Pounds family for their decision to support the Mayo Clinic & Illinois Alliance.

“We are forever grateful to Kathy and Ralph Pounds for their shared long-term vision and charitable trust to IHSI to support our growing partnering efforts with Mayo Clinic faculty and researchers,” said Boppart. “The gift from the Pounds will leave an indelible mark on our history of health innovation and patient care.”

The Pounds consider this a WIN-WIN for all.