The University Record, November 13, 2000

College of Pharmacy receives $3.4 million gift

By Dennis Gilbert
College of Pharmacy

Beverly Vahlteich DeLaney of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, has made a $3.4 million gift to the College of Pharmacy—the largest single gift ever made to the College at one time.

The gift was made in honor of Hans W. Vahlteich, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in pharmacy from the College in 1920 and 1921 respectively. Beverly Vahlteich DeLaney is the daughter and only child of the late Hans Vahlteich and Ella McCollum Vahlteich.

The $3.4 million Vahlteich DeLaney gift will be disbursed in three areas: $2 million will be used to establish the Hans W. Vahlteich Professorship in the College of Pharmacy; $1 million will be added to the College’s Hans and Ella McCollum Vahlteich Research Fund, established in 1984 and funded through their estate; and $400,000 will be added to the College’s Ara G. Paul Professorship.

“This gift is in memory of my father, his life and his passion for science, which was nurtured and given opportunity to flourish at the U-M College of Pharmacy,” explains Beverly Vahlteich DeLaney. “He and mother were modest people who shunned public display and fanfare. This is something I know they would have approved: a gift to benefit and encourage scientific discovery and achievement.”

The original Hans and Ella McCollum Vahlteich Research Fund was established to support research in biochemistry, microbiology and the relation of molecular structure to therapeutic values. Since its creation, grants have been made to governing faculty and research scientists with primary appointments in the College to encourage novel and preliminary investigations, support new initiatives that would enhance existing research or to provide bridging support to prevent disruption of ongoing research. Top Vahlteich Research Fund grants currently are $40,000, up from $25,000 when the fund was first established.

“We are absolutely delighted by the generosity and thoughtfulness of Beverly’s gift,” says Dean George L. Kenyon. “While all gifts to the college are valued and appreciated, a gift of this magnitude will have a powerful, immediate impact on our strategic initiatives.”

One of these initiatives is to recruit top faculty, Kenyon explains.

“We are going through a transitional phase at the College wherein we have to replace several key faculty who have already retired, or will soon do so,” Kenyon notes. “Endowed professorships, such as the Hans W. Vahlteich and the Ara G. Paul Professorships, facilitate this effort. A named professorship is designed to recognize exceptional achievement, and thus carries special prestige. Being able to offer an endowed chair enables us to compete more successfully for the best academic talent.”

Except for the one year he was an academic researcher at the Physiologisches Institut of the University of Berlin in 1927–28, the late Hans W. Vahlteich spent his entire professional career at Best Foods Inc. Between 1924 and his retirement in 1961, the Chicago native rose through the corporate ranks, from research chemist to vice president for research and quality control in 1943. At every step along the way, Vahlteich demonstrated an unusual capacity for transferring his knowledge of chemical processes into profitable commercial applications.

Although pioneering work on the hydrogenation of benzene and triglycerides had been done at the turn of the century, commercial applications were limited when Vahlteich entered industry in the early 1920s. A tireless innovator and experimenter, his patented work in the selective hydrogenation of domestic vegetable oils accelerated development and public acceptance of commercial margarine and helped transform Hellmann’s Mayonnaise® and Best Foods Mayonnaise® into nationally recognized brand names.

“I was practically born and raised in a drug store,” Vahlteich told then-Dean Emeritus Ara Paul during a campus visit in 1977. “I started to do chores and run errands when in grade school. I became an apprentice in the state of Illinois in January 1912, then assistant registered pharmacist, and finally full-registered on April 15, 1917—graduation day and also my 21st birthday. From 1915 to 1918, the drug store became my home. I opened it at 7:30 a.m., left for the day to attend pharmacy school, then returned to the store where my mother brought my dinner. I closed the store at 10 p.m. and slept in the back room to take care of night emergencies.

“Whenever there was time between semesters, or summer school and fall, I went back to Chicago and operated my father’s drug store. I was shuttling between Ann Arbor and Chicago and Chicago and New York for many years.”

During his U-M years, Vahlteich also was instrumental in establishing the alpha chapter of the Aristolochite Society, and became its president. The Aristolochite Society evolved into the modern National Rho Chi Honor Society, and Vahlteich received its Distinguished Service Award in 1980.

Looking back on his career from the vantage point of retirement, Vahlteich reflected that his pharmacy education played a critical role in his successful career.

“I could go into food chemistry and have certain advantages that someone who had never had any pharmacy would not have had, particularly in these days of food additives when dosage is such an important factor,” Vahlteich reflected in 1977. He also was quick to extol the merits of a pharmacy education as a general education.

“I still think it holds up well . . . I much prefer pharmacy to a straight literary education. It gives a tremendous capacity for enjoying life we wouldn’t have without it.”