Alumni Research

HIV/AIDS pioneer inspires classmate’s scholarship gift

Donors to the Class of 1974 Scholarship include former School of Medicine classmates H. Brent Clark, MD/PhD ’78, pictured second from left with his wife, Betsy, and Keith Wichterman, MD ’74, pictured second from right with his wife, Lisa. (Photo: Jamesley Lane/Washington University School of Medicine)

Jonathan Mann, MD ’74, helped spearhead the research and public health response to AIDS during a time when the disease presented itself as a pressing and unsolvable crisis. This advocacy made him an icon in the world of public health as well as to those who studied alongside him at Washington University School of Medicine.

To recognize Mann’s legacy, alumni established the Class of 1974 Scholarship in Honor of Dr. Jonathan Mann in 1999. More recently, his friend H. Brent Clark, MD/PhD ’78, pledged to add $100,000 to the endowed scholarship fund through his estate.

H. Brent Clark, who graduated from WashU’s Medical Scientist Training Program in 1978, entered the university with the Class of 1974. He and his wife, Betsy, celebrated 50th Reunion with that class in April 2024. (Photo/Jamesley Lane/Washington University School of Medicine)

Clark, a professor emeritus in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, hopes his bequest will enhance access to a WashU School of Medicine education for people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and help them reduce the burden of student debt. Clark himself received a full-tuition scholarship through WashU’s Medical Scientist Training Program, the largest federally funded MD/PhD program in the country.

“I came from a not particularly well-to-do background, so it was a great opportunity to have my medical education paid for,” says Clark, who also serves as director of neuropathology services at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. “I got a tremendous break, and I want to help others get a break. I want to play a role in making WashU’s great medical school accessible for talented students regardless of their financial wherewithal.”

Clark’s gift supports efforts to build critical resources for scholarships through Make Way: Our Student Initiative.

The MSTP’s dual-degree structure meant that Clark, who graduated in 1978, spent his first two years of medical school studying alongside Mann’s MD Class of 1974 before his curriculum took him into the laboratory. Though they followed separate academic paths, Mann and Clark remained close. They lived a few blocks from each other in Brentwood, Missouri, and often played tennis and basketball. Clark describes Mann as a good friend and smart student. The two bonded over the fact that, unlike most of their classmates, they were married. They often had dinner with other married couples in the class.

In the world of public health, Mann became known as a “demigod,” Clark says. His work, which focused on the intersection of health and human rights, changed how the world thought about AIDS. In 1984, he spearheaded an international AIDS research project in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. He went on to found the World Health Organization’s Global Programme on AIDS in 1986. In 1990, he joined the Harvard School of Public Health, where he became the first director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights.

In 1998, Mann died in the crash of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia. The following year, during their 25th medical school class reunion, members of the Class of 1974 chose to name their class scholarship in memory of their admired classmate. With their 50th reunion this year, the class is once again rallying to raise money for the scholarship fund.

“Even though my contribution is just a drop in the bucket, I know the endowment will continue to generate funds to help students far into the future,” says Clark, who celebrates his reunion with the Class of 1974. “I hope that others will join me in making a gift so we can have a big impact on growing the fund.”