Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The University of Iowa is removing the name of Stephen A. Wynn from the university’s renowned Institute for Vision Research. University leadership determined retaining the name would be damaging to the institution’s reputation following recent allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn. This change is subject to approval by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa and will be the first time the UI has removed a donor name from a building or institute.

“The University of Iowa is committed to ending sexual violence and sexual misconduct and ensuring survivors know they are believed, supported, and assisted. It is incongruous with the university’s values to maintain the Wynn name on our program and building,” says UI President Bruce Harreld. 

The university named the institute for Wynn in 2013 after he committed $25 million toward research to cure hereditary blindness. The naming was in recognition of the gift, and not a condition of the gift. To date Mr. Wynn has donated $20 million toward his commitment, dramatically increasing the institute’s scope of research.

“The Institute for Vision Research is conducting life-changing research that is critical to so many families suffering from inherited eye disease. This decision reinforces our commitment to the long-term health of the institute in terms of faculty and staff recruitment and retention and future philanthropic support,” says Brooks Jackson, UI vice president for medical affairs.

The Institute for Vision Research supports 29 faculty members from eight departments and four colleges. They work collaboratively to develop effective treatments for all forms of genetic blindness, ranging from common conditions like age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma to rare disorders like retinitis pigmentosa, Stargardt disease, Best disease, Usher syndrome, and Leber congenital amaurosis.

Private gifts allow the institute to recruit new scientists, purchase state-of-the-art equipment, and focus on eye diseases that government agencies and pharmaceutical companies often consider too rare to pursue.

“The University of Iowa has been conducting industry-leading research and providing sight-saving patient care for 30 years. The name of the institute has changed but our commitment to finding cures for hereditary blindness is unwavering,” says Harreld.