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Dr. Paul Frank ’91 Gifts Endowment for Vassar’s Health and Wellness Program

3 minute read

Appreciative for all Vassar did on his road to success, the alum wanted to find a way to give back.

Paul Frank ʼ91 was drawn to Vassar because of its proximity to his home in Manhattan, the park-like atmosphere, and the tight-knit community fostered at a smaller college. But the reason he ultimately chose Vassar in pursuing a pre-med education was his understanding of the power of a liberal arts education.

A student lies on their back on grass in the sunshine balancing another student diagonally above them with their upraised feet and hands, with a large red brick building in the background.

Two students practice yoga in the quad. Photo: Karl Rabe

“I kind of minored in art history and I was pre-med, so my roster was pretty full at Vassar between academics and social life,” Frank said. “But at the time, I would say Vassar was not a place that one who wanted to pursue medicine would go. I think in my graduating class, there were maybe only eight of us that applied to medical school.”

Frank, a psychology major at the time, felt supported by the College in his pursuits. And now, as a successful dermatologist practicing in Manhattan where he lives with his family, he wanted to find a way to give back to Vassar and its students.

Frank, who regularly stays in contact with Vassar and attends his reunions, noted improvements made to the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs on campus, including the building of the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, since he graduated.

Vassar has since become a leading college for pre-med students. Over the last decade or so, about 100 to 150 entering freshmen per year typically express interest in a health profession, including public health, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, social work, and more. Following their time at Vassar, about 88% of pre-health students are accepted into medical school.

“It appears now that they tend to attract a lot more people who are interested in science, law, engineering, things of that nature,” Frank said. “I often tell people that, in many ways, I learned more about being a physician at Vassar than I did in medical school. So much about your college experience is about your social evolution, development, and learning how to deal with people, which is, truthfully, the most important part of medicine—above and beyond knowing anatomy, physiology, and what medicines to prescribe.”

A person with short dark cropped hair wearing a black shirt and black pants stands in front of a wall with his arms crossed, looking at the viewer.
Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank ʼ91 recently gifted an endowment to the College supporting health and wellness initiatives. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Frank 

For today’s students, with major historical events occurring regularly, Frank has turned his attention to supporting health and wellness at his alma mater. He recently made an endowed gift to Vassar’s health and wellness program, an integral part of the Fearlessly Consequential campaign, in the hope it can help students take care of themselves so they, too, can be successful.

“One of the first things you learn in medical school is that if you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t be of use to others,” Frank said. “I can only imagine how much the need for a program like this has amplified. Anything that contributes to the well-being of the students’ mental health is certainly going to help their education and make sure they get the experience that they went to Vassar for.”

Before committing his gift, Frank knew he wanted it to have something to do with the mental health and wellness of Vassar’s students, whether his gift helped them access meditation, exercise, yoga, and mental health facilities, or whether it helped to enhance those types of services for the students facing this ever-changing and challenging world.

“I thought that was the best use of my success. So much of it is thanks to Vassar,” Frank said. “When you reach my age, and you’ve been fortunate enough to reach some level of success, you realize how you got to where you are. For most people, it’s family, institutions, friends, and mentors. Then, you figure out ways to give back. So, to me, giving back to Vassar in this light, I thought, was very appropriate.”

During his Vassar days, Frank said the College community was a diverse one—ethnically, socioeconomically, etc.—and was part of the social-liberal evolution. He remembers hearing stories of students going through tough times having to take time away from school or having self-harming thoughts from the pressures of life. But he knows that Vassar offered the resources students needed.

“Vassar was a type of place that supported people for whoever they were,” Frank said. “To this day, I still think that is a prominent part of Vassar’s ethos. It seems like now, in today’s world, more colleges have programs for this. But back in the 80s, it was very unique.”

Frank’s fund will help to establish an endowment that will provide funds for health and wellness initiatives including front-line staff, yoga instruction within the residence halls, outside speakers, nutritionists, and sponsored workshops for things like healthy and affordable cooking practices, and mindfulness practices—just to name a few.