When A. John Anlyan, B.S. ’42, M.D. ’45, arrived at the School of Medicine for first-year classes in the early 1940s, the corner of Congress Avenue and Cedar Street was home to the nursing dormitory and down the block from a few restaurants, a bar and not much else.

New Haven has changed since Anlyan’s medical school days, perhaps no part of it more than this intersection and the city block that is bounded by Congress and Howard avenues and Cedar and Gilbert streets.

When Anlyan and his wife, Betty Jane Anlyan, visited New Haven in May for the dedication of the medical school’s newest building, they saw the transformation firsthand. The new 457,000-square-foot complex occupying the block today, which combines facilities for research, education, magnetic resonance imaging and the care of laboratory mice, is the largest building ever constructed at the School of Medicine.

The Anlyans, who were early supporters of the project and had funded the building’s education wing, decided during their visit to increase the amount of their donation significantly. In recognition of their generosity, the building has been named The Anlyan Center for Medical Research and Education. As President Richard C. Levin said in thanking them for their support, “No one has done more to assure the future of these endeavors at Yale than John and Betty Anlyan. Their gift has been integral to the realization of the vision for this building.”

A gala celebration

The building was dedicated on May 2 at a gathering of university and civic leaders, faculty members and alumni. Then-Dean David A. Kessler, M.D. [See “From the Editor”], called the $176 million structure, which will be home to some 700 investigators, “the manifestation of Yale’s vision for scientific collaboration, the study of human biology and educational excellence.”

Joined by several hundred guests including the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Kessler predicted that the building would foster interdisciplinary collaborations among basic and clinical investigators and contribute to a “re-engineering of the clinical research enterprise … that brings bench discoveries to the bedside.” President Levin—joined on the podium by university officers, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., the Anlyans and other major donors to the project—noted that the building constitutes the largest single investment in a building in Yale’s history. In addition to thanking the Anlyans, he acknowledged the significant contribution of The Starr Foundation, a leading funder of medicine and health care worldwide, which is recognized in the naming of the C.V. Starr Atrium. Levin also thanked the W.M. Keck Foundation for helping to fund the 4-tesla magnet in the W.M. Keck High Field Magnetic Resonance Laboratory and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) for its ongoing support for scientists at Yale, including HHMI investigators housed in the new building.

Big boost for science

In his keynote address, NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., underscored the importance of placing basic and clinical researchers in close proximity, as is the case in the new building. “We are in revolutionary times that require a change in the way we do research,” said Zerhouni, who encouraged scientists to “break the barriers between departments” by forming large teams that are truly interdisciplinary. In the teams Zerhouni envisions, scientists will not simply contribute expertise for a study directed by a colleague in another discipline, but rather will serve as equal partners, tackling “topics that cross diseases” and transcend departmental boundaries.

Zerhouni called the life sciences “the last frontier” and urged medical schools to “make it easy on the physicians to engage in clinical research. … Young investigators need to be engaged early to enter biomedical research.”

The new building comprises six floors of laboratories, a three-story education wing for teaching anatomy and histology, a vivarium and greatly expanded facilities for magnetic resonance imaging research. The open spaces and large windows of the granite, brick and limestone building suggest a New England textile mill. The design and construction process itself was a study in effective collaboration, said architect Denise Scott Brown of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates of Philadelphia, which designed the building with Payette Associates of Boston. When architects and builders collaborate with a client like Yale, they “embark on an adventure together,” Scott Brown said, “matching wits and building on each other’s ideas.”

Kessler noted that the completion of the building is “a step along the way,” part of a plan by Yale to invest $500 million in the medical school campus over the next 10 years. “This building is a model we will use in the future to continue to transform the face of medicine at Yale.”

A lasting influence

Benefactor John Anlyan first came to New Haven from his native Alexandria, Egypt, in 1939 to attend Yale College and, later, the School of Medicine.

He trained in surgery at the University of Chicago Clinics and at Ohio State University while earning a master’s degree in enzyme chemistry. After returning to Yale as an instructor for two years and serving at Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York as a Damon Runyon fellow, Anlyan and his wife set out for California in 1954. For the next half-century, the couple devoted themselves to life in San Francisco, to his career as a cancer surgeon—and to Yale.

In recent decades, Yale presidents and deans visited the Anlyans’ San Francisco home, and the Anlyans retained a close interest in the university that educated John Anlyan and his two younger brothers—William, B.S. ’45W, M.D. ’49, who went on to become the chancellor of Duke University Medical Center; and Frederick, B.A. ’51, M.D., a Long Island pathologist. “I love Yale,” Anlyan said in June during a telephone interview from his new home in San Rafael, Calif. “It would never occur to me to do anything else but support it.”

But John Anlyan is not finished giving.

He has also willed his oil paintings of San Francisco scenes to the school, to be hung in the dissection room. It turns out that Anlyan, who speaks 10 languages and studied law in his spare time, isn’t a bad artist, either. “I think they’ll make it a happier place.” YM