UChicago connections and generosity inspire Bruce and Diane Fenster to leave a gift of scholarships.

A family tradition

For Bruce and Diane Fenster, both MD’78, the University of Chicago feels like home. To mark its significance in their lives, in 2014 they funded a deferred charitable gift annuity that will support scholarships in the Pritzker School of Medicine.

Diane’s family has a long association with the University. When her father, Wesley Keith Lind, SB’48, was studying chemistry there, he would meet her mother, Inga, for lunch on the Midway during her work breaks from Billings Hospital’s x-ray department. According to Inga, Wesley’s brother Carl Roger Sandberg, SM’40, worked on the Manhattan Project. As a child in suburban Chicago Heights, Diane took the train to Hyde Park to visit the Oriental Institute.

Diane and Bruce met during medical school. Bruce enrolled at UChicago planning to return to his native New York, but he fell in love with the Midwest and stayed. After graduation the couple, who married after their third year (one of seven married pairs from their class), matched together for residencies in Cincinnati, then moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, where they’ve been physicians—Bruce an internist, Diane a pediatrician—ever since. They remain close with their medical school class and come back for every reunion.

Diane, who came from working-class parents, appreciated that the University added to her scholarship support every year. “It wouldn’t have been impossible to go to med school without a scholarship, but it would have been a challenge,” she says. Bruce’s father had retired when he enrolled. The University, he says, “let me declare financial independence so I qualified for scholarship money.”

While they were students, money didn’t consume them. “At the University of Chicago, it was all about the mind,” Diane says. “People there were valued for what they knew—not only about medicine but about everything. How much money you had or where you came from had nothing to do with it.”

When their son Michael, MD’14, followed in his parents’ medical school footsteps, he received scholarship money as well. At Michael’s graduation, Diane got to march with him and put his hood on. “She and Bruce flipped for the honor,” grandmother Inga says. “She won.”

Giving back in the form of scholarships seemed like a natural step. “I know that there are people whose parents aren’t doctors and don’t have the money,” Diane says. “And if they are qualified to go to the University of Chicago, money shouldn’t be what stops them.”