Throughout the School of Medicine’s 200-year history, innumerable individuals have helped shape the institution. But a handful of people have actually built the school in an almost literal sense by providing major gifts to the medical school to construct the landmark buildings that today bear those donors’ names.

John William Sterling

The Sterling Hall of Medicine, dedicated in 1925, is named in honor of philanthropist John William Sterling (1844–1918), a New York City corporate attorney who graduated from Yale College in 1864, amassed a substantial fortune advising the likes of Standard Oil and the National City Bank of New York, and left the bulk of it, $18 million, to Yale University.

In his will, Sterling requested that some of the money be used to build “at least one enduring, useful, and architecturally beautiful edifice.” His wish was fulfilled, and then some: today, seven campus buildings carry the Sterling name, along with the professorships that are among Yale’s highest academic honors, and numerous scholarships, programs, and collections.

A graceful Renaissance Revival structure at 333 Cedar Street, Sterling Hall was funded initially with about $1.3 million from the Sterling bequest. In a 1991 history, the late Yale neurosurgeon William F. Collins Jr., M.D., called it the medical school’s “geographical and spiritual center.”

The sprawling building, which included administrative offices, a library, and state-of-the-art laboratories, helped bring most of Yale’s far-flung medical operations under one roof in a location close to New Haven Hospital. The Sterling Hall of Medicine, wrote Collins, stands as “enduring evidence of the beginning of the modern era of medicine at Yale.”

Nicholas Brady

Sterling Hall had distinguished company just across Cedar Street. In 1913, the medical school had secured a $625,000 grant from the Anthony M. Brady Foundation to build the first stage of the laboratory complex now known as the Brady Memorial Laboratory. Anthony Brady (1841–1913) was a wealthy industrialist who collaborated with Thomas Edison and others to create key components of mass transit, automotive technology, and lighting systems for cities such as New York, Albany, Washington, D.C., and Paris, France. Brady added to his fortune through astute investments in tobacco companies.

Brady’s son Nicholas, a philanthropist who graduated from Yale College in 1899, was instrumental in convincing his family’s foundation to provide a gift to the School of Medicine in honor of his father. The building, completed in 1918, provided headquarters and lab space for the departments of pathology and bacteriology, “pathological chemistry,” obstetrics and gynecology, and internal medicine. According to a 1999 history by cardiologist and School of Medicine alumnus Jordan M. Prutkin, M.D., “the most important utilization of space in this new building was for the routine laboratory work of the hospital.” Thus, the Brady building helped to “integrate the hospital and medical school,” something then-dean George Blumer, M.D., and Abraham Flexner, whose landmark 1910 report set the agenda for American academic medicine, considered an “absolute requirement.”

Edward Harkness

Even though the Brady Laboratory included dormitories after it was expanded in the late 1920s, by mid-century the demand for student housing greatly exceeded the available space. In an address to medical school alumni in 1953, Yale University president A. Whitney Griswold, Ph.D., noted, “students [were] scattered all over the city, in makeshift housing arrangements that imposed an unfair handicap on our medical school in competition with other leading schools.”

In the same speech, Griswold announced a solution to the housing dilemma: a $2.5-million grant to build Edward S. Harkness Memorial Hall, a high-rise structure that would house at least 266 students.

Harkness (1874–1940), a member of the Yale College Class of 1897, was an American attorney and philanthropist whose father, Stephen, made his fortune by investing in a venture captained by John D. Rockefeller—a company that would become Standard Oil. Edward Harkness used his inherited wealth to endow numerous non-profit organizations, from Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Many colleges also benefited from Harkness grants, and the Yale University campus was utterly transformed by the millions of dollars he and his mother, Anna, provided to build the University’s residential college system.

The grant for the medical school dormitory came through the Harkness-endowed Commonwealth Fund, and the effect was equally transformative. When it was completed in 1955, E.S. Harkness Hall, which provided housing and dining facilities for single women and men as well as married students, would “provide those essential amenities that take the curse off institutional living and promote the social relationships in which true education flourishes,” said Griswold.

Herbert Boyer

Four decades later, the Boyer Center for Molecular Medicine, with a distinctive César Pelli-designed façade that follows the curve of Congress Ave., opened its doors to an interdisciplinary cadre of researchers using the new tools of molecular biology to understand a wide array of human disorders, from cancer to heart disease to developmental defects.

The new center, dedicated in 1991, was named for Herbert Boyer, Ph.D., a scientist who was a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Medicine from 1963 to 1966. During his days at Yale, which Boyer recalls as a happy and exciting time, he started to develop a genetic engineering technology to splice genes from one organism into another. Several years later, as a professor at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), Boyer and colleagues patented this methodology, known as recombinant DNA, and founded, with about a thousand dollars, a company called Genentech. (UCSF would eventually reap more than $50 million in royalties from this patent; Genentech, which used recombinant DNA techniques to mass-produce human insulin and create treatments for cancer and other diseases, was acquired last year by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche for about $50 billion.)

In gratitude to Yale for helping him start his research career, Boyer gave the School of Medicine $10 million to endow the center that was then named in his honor. In a 1995 article on the Boyer Center, Vincent T. Marchesi, M.D., Ph.D., the Anthony N. Brady Professor of Pathology and professor of cell biology, wrote, “The power of [molecular genetics] has already exceeded even the most optimistic expectations.” Marchesi has served as the Boyer Center director since its inception.

John and Betty Anlyan

As the new millennium began, there was a pressing need at the medical school for both laboratory space and classrooms. Just up the street, at the corner of Congress Avenue and Cedar Street, construction was taking place on the largest, most expensive building in the School of Medicine’s history. With the opening of the Anlyan Center for Medical Research and Education in 2003, research space increased by 25 percent overnight. The building was named in recognition of major donors John Anlyan, M.D., a retired cancer surgeon who received his Yale medical degree in 1945, and his wife, Betty. The Anlyans bequeathed their entire estate, estimated to be worth more than $50 million, to the medical school.

The $176 million structure, designed by Robert Venturi, was the largest capital project ever undertaken in Yale’s history. With 457,000-square-feet of space, the center occupies a full city block. A six-story south wing is devoted to research, including internal medicine, genetics and immunobiology, and is home to about 700 investigators. The three-story education wing on the northern side has innovative facilities for the teaching of anatomy and histology, plus a 150-seat auditorium. The Anlyan Center also houses the W.M. Keck High Field Magnetic Resonance Research Center. The two wings are linked by a spacious three-story atrium funded by the Starr Foundation. As part of the gift, John Anlyan even included a collection of his own paintings to brighten the building.

Joel and Joan Smilow

Artwork also figures heavily into the ambience—and perhaps the healing power—of the newest building at the medical center, Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, a $467 million, 168-bed hospital in which interdisciplinary teams of specialists are offering state-of-the-art treatment options for patients with cancer.

The 14-story, 500,000 square-foot-hospital, which opened in October 2009, was named in honor of business executive Joel E. Smilow—who graduated from Yale College in 1954 and went on to lead Playtex Products—and his wife, Joan.

The Smilows, longtime Yale University benefactors, particularly in athletics, made a major philanthropic gift to help fund the hospital, which is replete with paintings, photographs, and sculpture, large salt-water fish tanks, and an outdoor “healing garden,” all creating an atmosphere one reporter described as a “carefully calibrated calm designed to soothe, allay fears, and encourage hope.”

In a dedication speech, Joel Smilow used the language of business to sum up the value of his gift, the latest in the long line of philanthropic donations for brick-and-mortar projects at the School of Medicine. His gift “will pay dividends every year,” he said. “Every year, thousands of patients will benefit.”