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A Transformational Gift

Dr. William Engel’s 1959 endowment was a gift of “outstanding philanthropy,” the first of its kind to SUNY Downstate medical students, during a national tuition increase after World War II.

Engel Placque

The William and Raynore Engel Fund was the first endowment, designated specifically for Downstate scholarships, independent of the Alumni Association. Donations typically flow into the endowment for the Association’s Alumni Fund, though they are distributed at the donor’s direction and restriction.

The Engel endowment, however, “made sure that scholarships were protected, with or without the Alumni Association,” said Eric Shoen-Ukre, Alumni Association Executive Director.

To guarantee that the Alumni Association also didn’t fail, Dr. Engel established a second endowment, the Engle Alumni Association Fund, which today funds an approximate third of the Association’s annual operating expenses.

Engel Bulletin

The William and Raynore Engel Fund for scholarships, established in 1959, was remarkable, distributing $21,000 to 45 SUNY Downstate students by 1962. Fifty-five years later, endowment returns funded 59% of student scholarships, at $213,000, in 2017.

William and Raynore Engel established the endowment on the fiftieth anniversary of his 1909 graduation from the former Long Island College of medicine. Philip Lear, MD ’34, editor of Alumni Today, lauded the gift as “outstanding” in a 1959 issue.

Engel scholars

“I hope the present crop of students who are beneficiaries of this great philanthropic gesture by Dr. and Mrs. Engel will have the same appreciation I would have had there been an Engel Fund in my day,” Dr. Lear wrote. “Deep within me still burns the flickering remembrance to make ends meet in the Depression years when I was a student here. I came from a New England home of sacrifice and not affluence.”

During his six years of surgical training after the “deprivation at medical school,” Dr. Lear earned a quarter of what an intern made in the 1930s.

In the early 1960s, parents and family provided 83% of a medical student’s income, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Then, the GI Bill launched a new wave of older, more independent medical students, many supporting young families of their own.

Meanwhile, tuition was going up nationwide, turning students to increasingly available loans, according to the AAMC. Tuition and debt have continued to climb until a quarter of medical students now graduate owing $200,000. Ten percent owe more than $250,000.


Dr. Engel’s gift has been a life saver for Downstate students from 1960 to today, Eric Shoen-Ukre said. The storied alumnus was a captain in the Army Medical Corps in World War I, and received the Distinguished Service Cross. He was also the author of “Sensible Diet,” published in 1939, and was a fellow of the American Academy of Physical Therapy. Raynore Engel died in 1962, and William Engel was remarried to Mildred Bristol Fuller. He died in Boca Raton, Florida, at the age of 84.

Engel Dedication Placque

With rising medical school tuition and increasingly overwhelming debt, however, there is a need for other SUNY Downstate healers to step forward and invest in medicine’s next generation.

If you are interested in setting up your own endowed fund, a charitable trust, or any other donation to support scholarships or operating expenses at the College of Medicine for SUNY Downstate, please reach out to the Alumni Association Executive Director, Eric Shoen-Ukre at, call 718-270-2675, or stop by the Alumni Office at SUNY Downstate.  We would welcome the opportunity to speak with you.

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