In recent months, the Pauley Heart Center has lost several special friends. These individuals have made great contributions to the life of our center, the impact of which will be felt for many years to come.
Businessman and devoted community philanthropist Charles Thalhimer died on September 2. His support to VCU included the Pauley Heart Center, the School of the Arts, the School of Medicine, the Massey Cancer Center and the School of Business. For the latter, he established the Thalhimer Family Endowment Fund, among the largest endowments in the VCU School of Business.
He served as co-chair of two large Pauley Heart Center campaigns. “He was very enthusiastic and worked tirelessly. Whenever you asked him to do something, he took it on with great vigor and always had ideas about people to involve. He was a very, very positive individual who was committed to doing good things,” says Dr. George Vetrovec, director of VCU Adult Catheterization Laboratory.
VCU lost another dear friend, John B. “Jack” Russell, who passed away on January 14. He was an attorney whose work focused on medical
malpractice defense. In one of his most significant trials, he defended heart transplant pioneer Dr. Richard Lower and other MCV faculty after the university’s first heart transplant when they were sued by the brother of the donor.
“His seminal defense resulted in the acceptance of brain death as a legal concept and paved the way for the growth of solid organ transplantation worldwide,” says Dr. Vigneshwar Kasirajan, chair of the Department of Surgery for VCU Medical Center. “The modern practice of transplantation resulted from his successful defense.”
In addition to his influential work in the courtroom, “Jack Russell was a delightful person who was very supportive of the heart center and the cardiology consortium,” says Dr. Vetrovec.
Dr. Kenneth Ellenbogen, chair of VCU Division of Cardiology, fondly remembers James C. Roberts, who died on March 8. “Jim Roberts cast a gigantic shadow. He was a tall man, and he would walk into a room and command everyone’s attention. He was a brilliant lawyer and had a way of talking that made everyone come to an agreement in a happy and comfortable fashion. He had a mind like a steel trap but was the always affable friendly Southern gentleman. He played a role in a number of landmark legal cases.”
He was also a tireless community volunteer. With his wife, Charlotte, “Jim was a huge supporter of the Pauley Heart Center and was critical in helping us get it started,” says Dr. Ellenbogen. The James C. Roberts, Esq., Professor of Cardiology was named in his honor.