A Vanderbilt University Medical Center Alumni Publication

Vanderbilt Medicine

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Turning personal experience into philanthropy

By Meredith Carr
July 2009

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Ann and Bob Coleman are surrounded by family and friends from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center community. The occasion is a celebration at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute to announce the appointment of Sean Donahue, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist, to the Sam and Darthea Coleman Chair in Ophthalmology. The chair was endowed by Bob’s parents, Sam and Darthea Coleman.

“Both my parents lived well into their 90s and had severe eye problems as they got older,” Bob said. “My father had glaucoma and my mother had macular degeneration. They spent a lot of time at the Vanderbilt Eye Clinic. When they were planning their estate, they wanted to do something for the Ophthalmology department.”

Both Ann and Bob are Vanderbilt alumni. After college and marriage, Bob, an engineer and an only child, went to work with his father, and he continues the work of the family real estate development firm today. Ann began her lifelong commitment to volunteer work.

“I was honored to serve on the first board of directors for Friends of Children’s Hospital,” she said. “In fact, I continued my involvement for many years. It was a wonderful surprise to me that Sam wanted to include them in the endowment.”

Over the last several months, the Colemans have enjoyed getting to know Donahue, chief of Ophthalmology at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and a professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Pediatrics and Neurology.

When Donahue came to Vanderbilt in 1995, he was instrumental in the creation of the Tennessee Lions Eye Center, which opened in October 1997. He has helped grow the Pediatric Ophthalmology service from about 1,000 to 10,000 patients a year since 1995.

“We are pleased that Dr. Donahue is activating the Coleman chair,” Bob said. “Ann and I are really impressed with his work. I’m sure that he and the Eye Institute have a bright future.”

“There are four milestones in the life of an academic physician: being offered that first job, being awarded tenure, achieving the rank of full professor, and, finally, receiving an endowed chair. I am so thankful to the Colemans for their generosity, and also to this fine institution, where, for me, all four of those milestones have happened,” Donahue said.

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