Lead Gift from Alum Firestone Brings Planned Medical Research Building Closer

October 22, 2019 by Ben Yousey-Hinds

Steve Firestone, M.D.’69, has been an annual donor to the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine since the 1970s, and in the early 2000s, donated artwork to help enhance the students’ learning environment. When plans began to take shape for a new biomedical research facility at the College, Firestone was inspired to step forward with his first major gift to the University. And, as over two hundred attendees learned in a ceremony held at the Larner College of Medicine earlier this month, that gift is an important one.

(L-R) Shane Jacobson; David Daigle; Suresh Garimella; Rick Morin; Steve Firestone; Lisa Lyne; and Rick Page. (Photo: Andy Duback)

Steve Firestone, M.D.’69, has been an annual donor to the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine since the 1970s, and in the early 2000s, donated artwork to help enhance the students’ learning environment. When plans began to take shape for a new biomedical research facility at the College, Firestone was inspired to step forward with his first major gift to the University. And, as over two hundred attendees learned in a ceremony held at the Larner College of Medicine earlier this month, that gift is an important one.

Pending completion of the fundraising for the project, Firestone’s leadership gift—the fourth largest in the history of the College—will help construct a laboratory building on the University’s campus. The new facility will be named the Dr. Frederick and Mrs. Bobbie Firestone Medical Research Building, in honor of his parents.

“Lifesaving treatment modalities will be discovered here over the coming years,” said  Firestone. “This building is going to hugely benefit the College of Medicine, the University, and the city of Burlington.”

UVM President Suresh Garimella, Ph.D., an expert on the role and importance of research in higher education, noted that “as a land-grant institution the University of Vermont is deeply committed to fostering discoveries that support the public good.  Across our campus, innovation is happening and progress is being made against many of the world’s most pressing challenges. By investing in flexible, collaborative laboratory spaces that share resources efficiently and support exceptional research, the University—and donors like Dr. Firestone—are ensuring that our impact continues to grow.”

“Biomedical science and technology change people’s lives for the better,” added Larner College of Medicine Dean Richard L. Page, M.D. “Physicians and scientists at the University of Vermont are key agents of that change, and every day they are making important strides in a wide range of areas. Thanks to Dr. Firestone and his generous support, we are closer than ever to a landmark expansion of our world-class research enterprise.”

With his gift, Firestone has chosen to recognize his peers in the Larner College of Medicine Class of 1969, who celebrated their 50th reunion this year. 

“I felt very fortunate to be accepted into medical school at UVM and I’ve been grateful ever since,” he added. “My classmates and I shared an extraordinary experience and I hope that this building memorializes that formative time.”

Firestone is a board-certified anesthesiologist, currently active as a ski instructor and real estate developer. He is a 1965 graduate of Middlebury College, and after completing medical school at UVM, did a fellowship with the World Health Organization anesthesiology training program at Genthofte Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark before moving to California for an internship at St. Mary’s Hospital in Long Beach and his anesthesiology residency at UCLA. 

This story begins with his father, Frederick Firestone, M.D., who after starting medical training in Vienna, made his way to the United States, completed his medical internship, and joined the U.S. Army during the Second World War. Returning to Europe as a battalion surgeon, the senior Firestone earned two Silver Star Medals—among the Army’s highest combat decorations—for his actions to save the lives of soldiers on the battlefield. After the war, he opened a modest medical practice, where his wife, Bobbie, worked alongside him as a nurse, and they served their community for many years.

The planned 60,000-square-foot building will be located adjacent to the Larner College of Medicine’s existing Health Sciences Research Facility, and has been designed to accommodate over 200 faculty, post-doctoral fellows, staff, and students from the College. The design features state-of-the-art modular facilities with consolidated laboratories and write-up areas—all intended to improve efficiency and help interdisciplinary teams of researchers to collaborate more effectively. The building project will also create a pleasant new green space with views of the Green Mountains where scientists and students alike can connect and recharge.

“We are deeply grateful for Dr. Firestone’s philanthropic investment in this project,” said UVM Foundation President and CEO Shane Jacobson. “It’s always a powerful act when an alumnus chooses to give back to their alma mater, but this is truly something special.  In making this crucial gift Dr. Firestone will inspire others and help make a difference for patients near and far.”

Fundraising for the biomedical research complex project is being carried out by the University of Vermont Foundation, a nonprofit corporation established in 2011 to secure and manage private support for the benefit of the University of Vermont. To learn more about how you can support UVM and the Larner College of Medicine, please contact the UVM Foundation at (802) 656-8600 or foundation@uvm.edu.


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