Giving Thanks

Gifts from Kettering family established medical school and helped it thrive

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

The Kettering Family Foundation was founded by Eugene W. Kettering, son of Charles F. Kettering, and his wife Virginia W. Kettering in 1956. Today, the Foundation supports a broad range of charitable activities of interest to the Board of Trustees, which is composed of members of the Kettering family.

In 1974, the Kettering family contributed $1 million to help found Wright State University School of Medicine. Other major founding donors included Mrs. Virginia Kettering, who contributed $1 million in unrestricted funds, and the Fordham Foundation, which provided $500,000 for a medical library.

The gift to help found the medical school was just the beginning of a large number of gifts that the Kettering family has given Wright State over the years.

In 1996, the Kettering family donated another $1 million to endow a scholarship fund for Wright State medical students who make a commitment to treat geriatric patients in the Miami Valley region.

In 1999, the Kettering Fund donated an additional $500,000 to the medical school to launch innovative new projects in biomedical research. The Kettering gift was used for seed grants to develop new lines of research through the Medical Innovations Grant Program at Wright State. Six research projects were selected for funding in a competitive, peer-review selection process.

In the same year, Kettering Fund support also provided seed grants through the Medical Innovations Grant Program which resulted in more than $4.5 million in competitive research awards from federal and state sources; an additional $5.5 million came under review. Kettering support brought additional post-doctoral researchers to Wright State and established a new center of excellence, the Center for Brain Research.

In 2001, Wright State University School of Medicine received another generous gift from the Kettering Fund of Dayton. The grant established a new research center of excellence and expanded two other research programs at the medical school.

The center was located at the Miami Valley Research Park in Kettering, and combined internationally recognized research projects on cardiovascular disease and rehabilitation medicine. The center was the steward of the Fels Longitudinal Study, the world's largest and longest-running survey of human growth, body composition, and cardiovascular risk factors.

Kettering Fund support enabled the center's researchers to expand their investigation of human variation throughout the lifespan, from childhood to old age. A long-range goal of the research was developed for practical diagnostic tools for assessing health status and aging in older persons.

The Kettering Fund gift also helped augment research at Wright State's Gene Expression Laboratory and Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR). The laboratory was a collaboration between Wright State's medical school and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Using the latest chip technology to study changes in gene expression, the laboratory was able to conduct research on genetic factors involved in Gulf War Syndrome and cancer. Kettering Fund support enabled more Wright State scientists and clinicians to use gene chips in their research. The new technology opened up avenues of exploration as well as new and more precise methods for diagnosing diseases such as cancer.

Kettering Fund support enabled CITAR to launch the first statewide research effort to monitor adolescent substance abuse and other health issues throughout Ohio. The program built on the research track record of the Dayton Area Drug Survey, which has monitored the incidence and prevalence of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use by Miami Valley teenagers since 1990. The program provided statewide data about teen tobacco use, as well as other substance abuse problems.  

A key feature of all the initiatives supported by the Kettering Fund has been an emphasis on multi-disciplinary research, including collaboration between Wright State's biomedical scientists and clinicians. By keeping this research strategy in the forefront, the medical school has sped the transfer of new medical knowledge from the research bench to the hospital bedside.


—Daniel Kelly

Last edited on 04/23/2020.