History » McCormick Genomic and Proteomic Center

McCormick Genomic and Proteomic Center

Catherine McCormick paintingThanks to an endowment by the late Dr. Catherine Birch McCormick, our department has been able to establish, in the nation’s capital, a center for the study of genetics focusing on the major diseases that inflict mankind. This gift, which was received in the late 1990s, represented the largest gift ever received by the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences at that time, and allowed our department to establish what we believe will be the premier center for the study of genetics in Washington, D.C., focusing on functional genomics and proteomics as they relate to human disease.

The history of why this gift was given to our department is extraordinary and provides a very timely lesson for all of us in the importance of respecting the students we are teaching. The history of the gift begins with a letter to then-GW President Dr. Steven Trachtenberg, which he received on April 26, 1993. The key points of the letter and the reason it was given specifically to the Department of Biochemistry speaks to the character of the then-chair of biochemistry, Dr. Vincent du Vigneaud, who later won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1951 for his work on oxytocin and vasopressin. A short synopsis of the events which led to the department receiving the gift is as follows:

History of the Gift

The Letter:

“Dear Mr. Trachtenberg,

I am interested in endowing GWU with a trust to be used exclusively by the Department of Biochemistry for research in relation to genetics. Would the Department of Biochemistry be interested in such a project?”

Catherine Birch McCormick
April 26, 1993

The Response

“Dear Dr. McCormick,

We are pleased that you are considering the establishment of a trust, the assets of which would pass eventually to George Washington University for the purpose you described.”

Michael J. Worth
Vice President for the Development and Alumni Affairs
May 27, 1993 

The Wording of the McCormick Trust

“The income only is to be used to support the Department of Biochemistry for research in but not limited to genetics in the School of Medicine.”

Catherine Birch McCormick
March 29, 1999

Why Biochemistry?

“Dr. McCormick’s affinity for the Department of Biochemistry began during her days as a student and can be attributed to the support and encouragement she received from Dr. Vincent du Vigneaud, then-chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1955. When she was a medical student at GW in the 30s, she was given a difficult time by most of our professors because she was a woman (one of only four women in her class), and the only professor who took her seriously was the Chair of Biochemistry, Dr. Vigneaud. Respect for her as a student was something that was obviously very meaningful to her and it is for that reason she identified Biochemistry in the manner that she has. There is a lesson for all of us in this story that is as relevant today as it was when Dr. McCormick was a student.”

Allan L. Goldstein
Catherine B. & William McCormick Chair
Department of Biology and Molecular Medicine
Nov. 12, 2003