“The University of Iowa has given so much to me and my success that I want to contribute to its on-going success.”

20160712-Bernd-Fritzsch-Donor-PORT-DSC_0060-JLAfter spending 17 years at Creighton University, Bernd Fritzsch had decided it was time to make a move professionally. For the long-time researcher and faculty member, his top priority was to maintain an active laboratory.

“When I talked to some colleagues at the University of Iowa, they encouraged me to take a look,” said Fritzsch. “Two fellow amphibian researchers who I knew were here at that time—President Sally Mason and Linda Maxson, who was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Knowing that I had communication partners in higher administration was a strong motivation for me to come to Iowa and pursue my research.”

Fritzsch, who lived in Germany until age 40, took a position as departmental executive officer with the UI Department of Biology in 2008. It proved to be a big turning point for his own research. “I was pursuing research on the molecular development of genes, but at Iowa, I’m now 100 percent in aging and molecular basis in aging,” he said.

Today, Fritzsch serves as director of the Center on Aging and the Aging Mind and Brain Initiative, and is a professor within the Department of Biology. While his research pursuits have changed vastly from the past—now uncovering more about how information comes from the ear to the brain—it’s his very research at the UI that has driven his philanthropy.

“Joining the University of Iowa at age 60 opened a new chapter in my life—one that reshaped my research and brought me unprecedented recognition at the national and international level,” said Fritzsch. “At Iowa, I’ve also felt a sense of belonging that I have not experienced since I left Germany. The University of Iowa was and is, for me, a true intellectual home of unprecedented richness, which I strive to support and maintain as a landmark of intellectual achievement for the next generation.”

While he continues to support the Fritzsch Funds for the Friends of Technical University in Darmstadt, Germany, where he studied biology and received his Ph.D. in zoology, Fritzsch started giving annually to the Department of Biology upon his arrival at Iowa. In 2013, Fritzsch and his wife, Marie Dominique Crapon de Caprona—who is a UI visiting professor—named the University of Iowa Foundation as a beneficiary of Bernd’s retirement plan in order to establish the Fritzsch Research Fund within the Department of Biology.

Because Fritzsch is leaving retirement plan assets to the University of Iowa Foundation—a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization—the entire value of the retirement plan will go to support the Fritzsch Research Fund. Those same assets, when left to individuals, would be subject to both federal and state income tax, greatly reducing the amount those beneficiaries would eventually receive.

The fund will provide support for research seed grants, which Fritzsch views as vital for the success of research in the future.

“The U.S. funding system requires preliminary data for a federal grant application, but there is no mechanism in place for how to finance the needed research to generate preliminary data,” said Fritzsch. “This gap blocks many great ideas from ever becoming reality simply because they never start. Our intent is to partially overcome this financial block with this gift. The University of Iowa has given so much to me and my success that I want to contribute to its on-going success.”