Roberta Apfel (MED’62)
Class Spirit, and a Suite Remembrance
Alumna’s planned gift will help her class endow a suite in the School of Medicine’s new Medical Student Residence in honor of their 50th reunion
What Dr. Roberta Apfel remembers most from her time at the Boston University School of Medicine are the supportive, close relationships. Everyone from the dean to the janitor was invested in the lives of students. “It was a comfortable and supportive place that was very focused on patients and the craft of medicine,” says Dr. Apfel, “and that was very important to me.”
To be sure, a supportive environment didn’t mean an easy one: “We worked so hard as medical students that we finally staged a strike to get a 40-hour weekend, because we were working straight through from Friday morning to Sunday night,” recalls Dr. Apfel. “I spent the whole winter of my fourth year in the tunnels underneath Boston City Hospital. I hardly saw daylight.”
Those vivid memories and fond feelings for her days in medical school have not dimmed. In fact, they’ve become even sharper over the past decades as Dr. Apfel volunteered, donated, and rekindled relationships with her classmates. Since her 15th reunion, she has been fundraising for BUSM through annual phonathons. “I appreciate the chance to meet current students, stay in touch with my classmates and watch this cohort of peers move through time, and help BU raise money for the School.”
For her 25th class reunion, when she became class president, Dr. Apfel built the reunion program around the subject of women in medicine—a particularly fitting theme for BUSM, as the School originated from one of the country’s first medical schools for women, the New England Female Medical College. “BU tends to be a pioneer,” she says, “even though it doesn’t get enough credit for that.” Dr. Apfel herself could be considered a pioneer: she was the first woman to graduate Brandeis University who went on to medical school.
She and her husband Dr. Bennett Simon had been giving to BUSM steadily over the years, but as her 50th reunion began coming into view, they thought more seriously about a planned gift. “We retired in 2008, timing things exquisitely so that our savings completely plummeted,” says Dr. Apfel, with a chuckle. “A charitable gift annuity seemed like a win-win situation. We could give a gift and still receive some additional income.”
At the same time, the 50th reunion planning committee began discussing the mark they would leave on their alma mater. They decided that their class gift would endow a suite in the new Medical Student Residence (which opened in Fall 2012).
“I think this new dormitory is a big, big step for BUSM, something that I and a lot of my classmates see the need for,” explains Dr. Apfel. It’s also to the new housing for medical students that the funds from their charitable gift annuity will go. “It will provide housing that’s safe, reasonably affordable, and adds to group cohesiveness. These values are emblematic of our positive memories of medical school,” she says. “And that’s something worth supporting.”
A life well lived—and remembered
The widow of a BU School of Medicine alumnus pays tribute to his career and passion for teaching through student scholarship.