Fritz Wenzel Center for Clinical Research
Name formally announced at Wenzel Family legacy event
FOR HUB CITY TIMES
MARSHFIELD — Some of Tom Wenzel’s early memories of growing up in Marshfield was spending Sundays with his father, Frederick “Fritz” Wenzel, in the lab or talking with other researchers getting in some extra work on the weekend. While that isn’t a typical way to spend a Sunday for most people, it’s an example that demonstrates the importance of research to the Wenzel family.
The link between the Wenzel Family and research has been cemented with the recent $1 million donation from Tom Wenzel to name Marshfield Clinic Research Institute’s Fritz Wenzel Center for Clinical Research in honor of his father. The donation and the Clinical Research Center’s new name were formally announced during Wenzel Legacy Research Event held April 5 at Laird Center for Medical Research in Marshfield.
“All I can say is that I’m humbled and grateful; Grateful for this evening that each and every one of you who turned out tonight,” Fritz Wenzel said in his remarks that culminated nearly two hours highlighting MCRI’s work and Wenzel Family’s impact on research. “I wish I had the opportunity to shake the hand of every man and hug every lady out here.”
Honoring a legacy
Fritz’s dedication to the Health system stretches 70 years, and among his many roles, he served as executive director of the Health System from 1976 to 1993 and was instrumental to the growth and success of our organization. He continues today to serve on the Health System board of directors.
The Wenzel family has a long history of supporting the Health System, establishing the Fritz Wenzel Science Conference and providing funding for pediatric projects including waiting room murals and a pediatric cancer treatment room in memory of Fritz’s wife, Mary Ann. Fritz, along with Tom, also made a $250,000 donation to establish the Mary Ann Wenzel Nursing Scholar Award.
The $1 million gift to research from Tom which will be used to create an endowment that expands MCRI’s applied and translational research programs, expanding access to research for patients across the Health System and improving health in our rural communities. When the gift was announced Dec. 9, Fritz also announced a $250,000 donation to add to his son’s support.
“The thing I really appreciate the most of this process, and how I intended the philanthropic goals, was the true appreciation for what Dad meant to Marshfield Clinic and the health care community at large, nationwide,” Tom Wenzel said. “Most importantly, the impact on the community of Marshfield. We can’t underestimate the impact he’s had on the community.”
Marshfield Clinic Research Institute received its first National Institutes of Health grant in 1960 to study farmer’s lung disease, a debilitating and sometimes fatal disease among farm workers. The research led to the development of a blood test to detect exposure to the microbes that cause the disease and ultimately helped thousands of farmers.
Since then, the Research institute has been at the forefront of research in genetics, agriculture medicine and safety, population health, epidemiology and dozens of other areas. Fritz Wenzel has been part of it all when he was the first executive director of Marshfield Clinic Foundation for Medical Research and Education. He even served a stint in recent years as MCRI’s interim executive director.
Current interim MCRI Executive Director Jennifer Meece, Ph.D., worked closely with Fritz, spending many hours in his office. She described him as one of her most influential mentors as he provided guidance and counsel.
“Fritz is a tireless advocate for the belief that research makes us a better health care system,” Meece said.
The Wenzel family offered effusive praise for the research that continues today at the Research Institute. While it “technically” started with Fritz, family members gave much credit to his late wife, Mary Ann.
“His trust and respect for our mother was complete … he stood on the shoulders of a giant,” said Ann Wenzel, the family’s eldest daughter. “She was indeed the spirit of giving. She was the leader.”