Giving in Action: Michael, MD’76, and Melissa Lojek, PhD’78

From the Spring 2020 edition of Vanderbilt Medicine Magazine

For Michael Lojek, MD’76, and his wife, Melissa, PhD’78, “generosity” is one of the words that comes to mind when they think about Vanderbilt.

“Vanderbilt was very generous to me, to my wife, and to other students in graduate and medical school,” Michael said. “I very much appreciated that generosity of Vanderbilt all those years ago.”

Vanderbilt was his first choice among the medical schools he applied to, and he was grateful to receive scholarships and grants as a student. Melissa, too, received financial support in the form of a graduate student stipend while she earned her doctorate in physiology. In return for her stipend, Melissa prepped and taught labs in Vanderbilt’s biology department. For a new college graduate with no money to her name, that support made all the difference.

“I wouldn’t have gone to grad school if I didn’t have the stipend,” she recalled. “The ability to support myself by teaching within the University was very helpful to me. To be able to give back now is important to us.”

It’s this sense of gratitude — and the promise of helping others follow in their footsteps — that inspired the Lojeks to include Vanderbilt in their estate plans. In 2019, the couple documented a bequest to establish the Melissa D. Lojek, Ph.D. Scholarship at the Graduate School and the Michael A. Lojek, M.D. Scholarship at the School of Medicine. Once realized, their gifts will offer scholarship support for graduate and medical students to attend Vanderbilt who might not be able to otherwise.

For Melissa, the scholarships are a continuation of a generations-long family legacy at Vanderbilt. Her grandmother taught at Peabody College before it merged with Vanderbilt, and her mother, James Hardy Noland, was a 1941 Vanderbilt graduate. Those connections drew her to Vanderbilt, where she discovered her interest in physiology. She worked on skeletal muscle glycogen metabolism in the lab of John Exton, MD, PhD, emeritus professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics.

The couple married after Michael’s third year in medical school. He completed his internship and residency at Vanderbilt while Melissa continued her graduate and postdoctoral studies. Then they moved to Vermont, where Michael completed a cardiology fellowship and Melissa did postdoctoral work in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, both at the University of Vermont. They finally settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Michael began his cardiology practice, Melissa spent seven years teaching basic human physiology at Grand Valley State College, and together they raised three sons.

Over the years, the Lojeks supported Vanderbilt through smaller, unrestricted gifts, mostly to the School of Medicine and the Graduate School. When they decided to designate Vanderbilt as a beneficiary of their estate, however, scholarships were their priority.

“We thought the best way to leverage our money for good in the future was to support bright, rising people who can do good in the world,” Michael said. “I think it’s as good a cause as anything.”

Planned gifts help secure the School of Medicine’s future. For more information about how to create your legacy through a planned gift to Vanderbilt, contact Taylor Wood at taylor.h.wood@vanderbilt.edu or 615-343-5648. 

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