Penn Medicine Office of Planned Giving

Louis B. Flexner, M.D.

Louis B. Flexner, M.D., former chair of Penn’s Department of Anatomy, became a world leader in the study of memory. He never forgot the generosity that allowed him to pursue a career in medicine. Arthur K. Asbury, a longtime friend and an emeritus professor of neurology, says of Flexner, “He was interested in helping just as he’d been helped.”

Dr. Flexner’s benefactors were his famous uncles, Drs. Simon and Abraham Flexner. After four decades at Penn, Dr. Flexner and his wife, Josefa B.G. Flexner, Ph.D., made sure that their relationship with the School of Medicine would not end with their deaths: they left generous charitable remainder trusts and a substantial bequest to fund scholarship support.

Early on, Louis demonstrated an interest in health care. At age 7, he won a writing contest on “How I Intend to Earn My Living,” detailing his plan to cure leprosy. He earned both his undergraduate degree and his medical degree with financial help from his uncles. Josefa, a native of Spain, earned her doctorate in pharmacy in Madrid and won a scholarship to study at Johns Hopkins in 1930, where she met Louis. The two were married in 1938.

In 1951, Louis came to Penn as chair of the Department of Anatomy. Soon afterward, he founded the Institute for Neurological Sciences, now the David Mahoney Institute. As a research associate in the Institute, Josefa worked alongside Louis at every point. “She made it all work,” Asbury says. “She was the detail person.”

The couple lived frugally. “They saved their money, knowing it would go to create this endowment for medical education,” says Asbury. They were generous with their time and talent, continuing to work, teach and publish without pay for nearly 25 years past the mandatory retirement age. Louis died in 1996 at 94; Josefa died in 2000 at 97.

Years before her death, Josefa was quoted in a Penn publication expressing a sentiment that seems to sum up their mutual love of medicine: “We must use our imagination to spend that time between birth and death to do the thing that is most satisfying for us, and, if possible, to give satisfaction to the people around us.” The Flexners’s charitable remainder unitrusts and their sizable bequest are among the many creative gift opportunities that can benefit both the School of Medicine and its donors.

Penn Medicine
Office of Planned Giving
Christine S. Ewan, J.D.
Executive Director, Planned Giving
3535 Market Street, Suite 750
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3309
215-898-9486 | Fax: 215-573-2186


Penn Planned Giving