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Earl "Jack" Wipfler Jr., MD, and Shirley Harbert Wipfler sit in the Jack and Shirley Wipfler Auditorium in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing during a fall 2008 visit, before their $400,000 gift funded the auditorium's renovation. Earl Wipfler is a 1953 graduate of the university's two-year medical degree program and the first to complete residency training in general surgery at MU. His wife, Shirley, graduated from MU in 1959 as a registered nurse.


Donors Improve Learning Environment for Medical and Nursing Students


Jack and Shirley Wipfler finance the renovation of MU nursing school auditorium

More than 50 years after they met while caring for patients at the then-fledgling University Hospital, Earl "Jack" Wipfler Jr., MD, and Shirley Harbert Wipfler are helping to lay the groundwork for educating future doctors and nurses at the University of Missouri. Thanks to the couple's generous donation of $400,000, the renovation of the Jack and Shirley Wipfler Auditorium in MU's Sinclair School of Nursing was completed in August to provide a better learning environment for both medical and nursing students.

"Education was a door-opener for us to live out our dreams," said Shirley Wipfler. "We feel tremendous gratitude for the exciting life we've lived, doing what we've wanted to do and doing it well. It is totally priceless."

Earl Wipfler is a 1953 graduate of the University's two-year medical degree program and the first to complete residency training in general surgery at MU. His wife, Shirley, graduated from MU in 1959 as a registered nurse. When they decided to give back to the university, the Wipflers wanted to pay tribute to the schools that helped equip them to be healers, caregivers and vital parts of the St. Charles, Mo., community where they lived for more than 40 years before recently moving to Gulf Shores, Ala.

Over the course of four months, contractors gutted the outdated auditorium to make it a more pleasant and safer place for students to learn. The first step was asbestos abatement, followed by the removal and replacement of all seats, carpeting, lights and ductwork. Filling in a recessed pit at the front of the room expanded seating capacity from 162 seats to 175 seats in addition to improving handicapped accessibility. The completed auditorium also features technology upgrades to keep pace with today's learners, including updated audiovisual equipment and under-seat electrical outlets for students' laptop computers.

"In a survey, students identified renovation of this auditorium as a priority," said Linda Headrick, MD, senior associate dean for education and faculty development at the medical school. "I'm very grateful that the Wipflers provided the private support to create an up-to-date learning environment for our doctors and nurses of the future."

The MU medical and nursing students who use the auditorium will join the decades of patients and community members who have benefitted from the couple's generosity. Earl Wipfler practiced as a vascular and general surgeon in St. Charles for 25 years and for another 10 years as an emergency department physician. Upon retirement, he helped found the St. Charles Volunteers in Medicine free clinic, which provides care for people with no health insurance. Shirley Wipfler operated a holistic health clinic for 25 years, helping patients with their physical and emotional health. The couple has four children, one of whom, Earl John Wipfler III, MD, is a 1988 MU medicine graduate and an emergency room physician in Peoria, Ill.
MU Health Magazine

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