The Troyer-Callan Family: Many Ways to Give

Scientists like Nadia Dahmane, Ph.D., spend their days (and often nights) not just peering into microscopes and poring over reams of data, but writing grants that will allow them to continue their research. In Dahmane’s case, that research involves studying molecular signaling events that promote the earliest stages of brain develop- ment in the embryo. She has shown that when these signaling events are disrupted, they can lead to medulloblastoma, the most common type of brain tumor in children and one for which new therapies are desperately needed. 

Yet while Dahmane has gotten generous support from individual donors and several foundations, including the American Cancer Society, the National Brain Tumor Society, The V Foundation, and the W.W. Smith Charitable Trust, among others; as well as from individual donors, there remain many expenses not covered by those grants, but by institutional funds provided through unrestricted donations.

These donations arrive at the Institute through many channels, including from designated donations to the United Way. That has been the vehicle James Troyer and his wife Kathy Callan have chosen for their giving to Wistar. 

“Both of us are big fans of giving to basic research,” said Troyer. “We think you can get a lot of bang for your buck that way even though the payoffs may be decades in the future.”

But why Wistar? The Institute’s reputation for making important discoveries was only part of their reasoning. “We met some scientists and they were really impressive people,” continued Troyer. “I kind of wish I was a scientist, because I want to accomplish something that makes a big impact in the world.”

The Troyer-Callan children have also joined the Wistar family. Sean, now a senior at Bowdoin College, participated in the High School Summer Fellows program in 2008, working in the Protein Expression Facility; and Jenny, now a sophomore at the Hobart and William Smith Colleges, did her high school senior project working in Wistar’s Microscopy Facility. The summer program helped convince Sean that he wanted to be a scientist (he is majoring in biochemistry), according to his father. Jenny is more interested in the aesthetic side of science, which made the microscopy project a perfect match for her.

The Troyers’ involvement at Wistar extends beyond their financial contributions and Sean and Jenny’s lab experiences. Troyer, an investment manager in the quantitative equity group at Vanguard, also serves on the Institute’s Pension Committee. “His participation provides the Institute with a valued and independent review by a seasoned professional of the investment strategy employed for our pension plan investment portfolio,” said Larry Keinath, vice president for finance and administration.

“It’s nice to be able to do something for the Institute,” said Troyer. “It makes me feel more connected.”