Obituary: Wolff, longtime University benefactor, 93

Edith L. Wolff, a longtime donor to the School of Medicine, died Dec. 26, 2008, at Barnes-Jewish Hospital after a brief illness. She was 93.

Wolff and her late husband, Alan A. Wolff, directed funds to multiple areas of medical research at the School of Medicine for more than 30 years. Most recently, Edith Wolff committed $20 million in late 2007 to establish the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Institute, which supports biomedical research projects that lead to the prevention, treatment and cure of disease. The institute will identify opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single discipline can address alone but that the scientific community as a whole will explore in interdepartmental collaboration. Its goals reflect those of BioMed 21, the University’s multidisciplinary research initiative to rapidly translate basic research findings into advances in medical treatment.


In addition, Edith Wolff endowed two professorships. The Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professorship in Medicine was established in 1999 to support progress in understanding cancer and is held by Timothy J. Ley, M.D.

In 2003, she endowed the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Distinguished Professorship in Medicine, which is held by William A. Peck, M.D., former executive vice chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine and now director of the Center for Health Policy. She also established the Edith L. Wolff Scholarship-Loan Fund, a non-interest-bearing fund for medical students.

Alan Wolff founded Wolff Construction Co., a real-estate development, investment and management company, in the late 1940s. During the ’50s and ’60s, the company built numerous shopping centers in Missouri, Illinois and Kansas.

Following Alan Wolff’s death in 1989, Edith Wolff became president of the company, which flourished under her direction and now focuses on real-estate investment and on management and leasing of commercial buildings.

She also began a more active and public philanthropic career, and she sought to set an example of public giving in the hope that others might increase their charitable giving within their means.

She gave to numerous causes and charities, with the largest contributions being made to Washington University, Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, St. Louis ARC and its Childgarden School, Life Skills Foundation, Miriam Foundation and Rainbow Village Foundation.

Edith Wolff’s charitable contributions have been previously recognized by numerous awards from the organizations she benefited, including an honorary doctorate from the University in recognition of her extraordinary support of life-saving medical research.

Funeral services were held Dec. 30, 2008. Memorial contributions may be made to a charity of one’s choice.