“We’re proud of this gift,” says Bob. “It helps people in need, it helps med students get a better education, and the college uses it as a recruitment tool. We feel good about helping in honor of Barry.”

Bob and Marion FreemanWhen Robert (1950 B.S.P.E) and Marion Freeman lost their son Barry in 1972, they wondered what to do with the memorial gifts that came pouring in. At the time of his death, Barry was in his first year of medical school at the University of Iowa, so the couple called the dean of what is now known as the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, and after getting feedback from Barry’s classmates, purchased some furniture for a student lounge and created an emergency loan fund for medical students.

“That’s how we started,” says Marion. “And then, when people asked ‘what can we do?,’ we encouraged them to give to the college.”

Many people would have felt satisfied with what was a generous—and valuable—gift to support Barry’s classmates. But with that gift, the Freemans merely “started” what would turn into more than 40 years of giving that has supported generations of UI Carver College of Medicine students and reaches across departments and around the globe. All while creating a lasting legacy to honor their son.

Barry Freeman grew up in Iowa City, as did his parents, and received his Bachelor of Science degree at Iowa in 1972 before being accepted into the medical program the following fall. On December 8 of that same year, Barry was walking on campus near Hardin library—he was on his way to an exam—when he was killed in a tragic accident near a construction site.

“Barry was a wonderful son,” says Bob. “He was an excellent student; he was inquisitive, fun-loving, and determined to be a physician.”

The Freemans say they gave to Iowa—and continue to give—to honor the type of person Barry was. And as they’ve continued to grow the fund throughout the years, they’ve encouraged others to give, too. A few years ago, the Freemans initiated a challenge to UI Carver College of Medicine alumni—including those who had benefitted from the fellowship—and matched the money raised several times over.

The couple also recently established a bequest in their estate plans that will support the fund, and ensure Barry’s legacy continues in perpetuity.

“We’re proud of this gift,” says Bob. “It helps people in need, it helps med students get a better education, and the college uses it as a recruitment tool. We feel good about helping in honor of Barry.”

Today, what started out as an emergency fund that granted no-interest, emergency loans to medical students has blossomed into a multi-faceted fund that supports a number of important programs and initiatives.

Since 1981, more than 300 students have been awarded the Barry Freeman Fellowship, which helps UI medical students conduct hands-on medical work or research in Third World countries.

Michael Ross, M.D., (1997 M.D.) was one of those students. He received the fellowship twice during his time at Iowa and says the experiences were life changing.

“The feeling I had when I arrived in Africa will never leave me,” says Dr. Ross. “I grew up in a small town in Iowa, and all of a sudden found myself trying to get to a small village in Africa. I was overwhelmed but so excited.”

Dr. Ross is grateful to the Freemans for investing in UI students and has joined them by contributing to the fund as well.

“I am happy to give back. My fellowship experiences really changed me as a person, helped me discover myself, and gave me a global perspective that I did not have before,” says Dr. Ross. “I am the person I am today because of the UI, and specifically because of the Barry Freeman Fund.

Robin Paetzold, director of global programs for the UI Carver College of Medicine, works with fellowship recipients and sees firsthand the impact the Freemans’ giving has on students.

“I really admire what the Freemans have done for the college and our students,” says Robin. “We have such a strong global program, and it started with their gift. Having this opportunity for our students, it definitely is a wonderful recruitment tool, and the students feel so supported—not just because of the financial help—but I think they really feel like someone’s looking out for them and paving the way. ”

Students who receive the fellowship must spend a minimum of 8 weeks at an international medically underserved site, under the supervision of a health care provider who has extensive knowledge and expertise as well as a formal tie to the site. At the conclusion of the project, fellows write up a final report, which is shared with the Freemans.

“We have hundreds of thank-you cards,” says Marion. “And each year, we look forward to receiving those reports—it’s so interesting to read them and learn what students are doing,”

Robin says it’s a way to give the Freemans a window into the world of the people they are helping.

“The Freemans are trusting students they don’t know to go into places they’ll never see, and provide critical aid. It’s really remarkable.”

The Freemans’ fund supports other initiatives—those emergency loans continue and are designed to be a stopgap for things like rent, unexpected medical expenses, or other financial hardships. The loans are offered with no interest, and students arrange a payback schedule when they take the loan. Since nearly all of the more than 500 loans that have been made so far have been repaid, that fund self-replenishes and continues to serve students today. The Freemans’ gift also supports a medical Spanish program, which provides 6-week courses in conversational Spanish each semester.

Although the impact of the Freemans’ giving is felt far and wide, Bob says the reason he and Marion give is a simple one:

“We’re just trying to do the things Barry would have done if he would have lived.”