The Robert M. and Shirley S. Siff Chair in Family Health Research will study neurological and developmental disorders in children of adoptive and birth families

May 21, 2003

WORCESTER, Mass. -- Calling their ability to be philanthropic "a dream come true," Mr. Robert and Dr. Shirley Siff of Worcester have endowed the Robert M. and Shirley S. Siff Chair in Family Health Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Established in the UMass Center for Adoption Research, the chair will allow a faculty member to pursue multidisciplinary research to uncover the causes of and identify effective treatments for neurological and developmental disorders, especially autism, in children of adoptive and birth families.

“We feel privileged to be able to endow a chair so that this research can carry on during and after our lifetimes,” said Mr. Siff. The recipient, to be selected, will establish research collaborations with an interdisciplinary cadre of basic and clinical scientists from throughout the Medical School.

A graduate of Worcester Academy and Brown University, and a World War II veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Siff was chair and chief operating officer of B-W Footwear Company, Ambassador Shoe and BWA International. Dr. Siff is an associate in psychiatry, currently in private practice after serving the Worcester Public Schools as a school psychologist for ten years. She is a member of the UMass Memorial Foundation Executive Committee and co-chairs its Community Partnership Committee. Members of the executive committee of the Center for Adoption Research, the couple’s interest in adoption stems from Mr. Siff’s experience as an adopted child. The focus of the chair on developmental disorders is a result of a grandchild who was diagnosed with autism.

The Siffs have long shared their good fortune as involved members of the Worcester community, committed to institutions including the Worcester Jewish Federation, Worcester Area Association for Retarded Citizens and the Two-Ten National Foundation, a philanthropic organization of the shoe industry. “We’re so proud to have a major academic medical center of UMMS’ caliber right here in Worcester,” explained Dr. Siff. “With its overarching goal of helping families, we hope the chair will create a far-reaching legacy of commitment and of caring for future generations.”

Chancellor and Dean Aaron Lazare has long enjoyed the friendship and support of the Siffs who, in 1998, made one of the major gifts that helped establish the Center for Adoption Research, the first university-based initiative of its kind in the nation.  “The Siff chair is a unique response to questions about neurological diseases and how they affect all family members,” said Dr. Lazare, executive director of the center and himself the adoptive father of eight. Center Director Peter Gibbs, MA, concluded, “The Siffs’ philanthropy has been extraordinary. They have been with us every step of the way, sharing what is most important to them—their passion and commitment to children.”

The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country and has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $143 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources.  Research funding enables UMMS scientists to explore human disease from the molecular level to large-scale clinical trials.  Basic and clinical research leads to new approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. Visit www.umassmed.edu for additional information about the medical school and the Center for Adoption Research.

Contact: Sandra Gray, 508-856-2000