Patient Care

Former Piano Teacher Donates $6M to UR Eye Institute

Oct. 21, 2009
The Adeline P. Lutz Pavilion to be dedicated later this year

For Adeline Lutz, the past 22 years have been a lesson in the value of sight and the need for individuals to have access to the best vision care possible.

Adeline and her late husband, Walter “Jack” Lutz, led an active, full life. Adeline worked out of their Greece home and taught piano lessons. Jack was employed at Kodak as an engineer. They traveled some, played tennis together often, enjoyed their home, and spent more than 50 joyful years as best friends.

Beginning in 1987, Adeline, now 82 years old, began having vision problems. Since that time she has undergone a series of surgeries at the University of Rochester Eye Institute – 13 operations that included two corneal transplants and the repair of two macular holes on her retina. Adeline’s primary ophthalmologist, corneal surgeon Steven Ching, M.D., became a driving force in her vision care, and he also became a close friend.

Because of her relationship with Ching and the entire staff at the University of Rochester Eye Institute (UREI), Adeline and Jack decided they wanted to do something to give back to UREI, to assist with the mission of the Eye Institute to provide the most leading-edge eye care and become a major national center for eye care, ophthalmic research, education, and technology transfer.

“They are all like family to me and I credit Dr. Ching with saving my sight,” Adeline said. “Jack and I wanted to repay him and everyone at the Eye Institute for their dedication and kindness and ensure that future patients continue to get the very best, the very newest, treatments.”

As a result of the Lutzes’ wish, the couple decided to donate most of their savings to the University of Rochester Eye Institute – an impressive $6 million.

"This significant gift is an illustration of the power of University of Rochester faculty to use patient care and research to make an extraordinary impact on patients’ lives," said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman. “The entire university is grateful to Mrs. Lutz and her husband for recognizing our world-class vision experts and seeing an opportunity to further support the Eye Institute so that it can assist more individuals in the future.”

URMC Acting CEO Mark B. Taubman, M.D., said of the multi-million-dollar contribution: “The Lutzes’ generosity will help the Eye Institute continue to fulfill the important mission of giving those with even the most complex visual conditions reason for hope.”

Adeline admits that most in the community will be shocked to learn that the Lutzes had such substantial savings. She acknowledges they lived a quiet life, which was what made them most happy. Adeline has always clipped coupons and has driven the same car since the early 1980s. It was Adeline who handled their money from the very first week of their marriage, and she thoroughly enjoyed investing in the stock market.

“It just slowly added up over time,” she said modestly.

She has directed the $6 million gift to be used for whatever initiatives will move the UR Eye Institute forward in patient care and research. Additionally, the Adeline P. Lutz Pavilion will be named in her honor this fall, placing her name on the front of the building that houses the Eye Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“My husband wanted it to be in my name only, since I went through all the surgeries,” Adeline said. “He was such a sweet and generous man – I could never have gone through all of it without him. This gift is a tribute to him, as well.”

Ching is humbled by the Lutz gift. “For a patient to support us in this way, it is truly overwhelming,” he said.

Steven E. Feldon, M.D., M.B.A., chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and director of the University of Rochester Eye Institute, said, “This generous offering to the University of Rochester Eye Institute is one of the largest gifts ever received. We are grateful for the Lutzes’ support of our faculty and programs and will use their donation to further enhance the Eye Institute’s role as it becomes one of the top centers in the nation.”