A wife's memory inspires a legacy of giving

Ray Calvert's generosity to UT Southwestern continues to honor his wife by supporting pancreatic cancer research

Ray Calvert’s voice still cracks with emotion when he talks about it.

“Everything I’ve done with UT Southwestern is in some way to honor Paula.”

Nine years ago, Mr. Calvert’s wife, Paula Calvert, felt a wrenching pain in her stomach. The discomfort drove her to seek a diagnosis. The conclusion was dire: inoperable, stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Doctors advised chemotherapy was her only choice of treatment. She was given months to live.

For a second opinion, the Calverts visited UT Southwestern Medical Center and Dr. Udit Verma, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine in Hematology-Oncology. Skeptical about the stage 4 diagnosis, Dr. Verma recommended a combined approach of surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible, chemotherapy to halt its spread, and radiation therapy to shrink the malignant growth.

Photo of Ray Calvert, Dr. Udit Verma, and Paula Calvert
From left, Ray Calvert, Dr. Udit Verma, and Paula Calvert stand for a photo on June 16, 2015. UT Southwestern Medical Center

He also suggested Mrs. Calvert enroll in a clinical trial to direct her own body’s immune system to combat whatever cancer cells remained.

Only 8.2% of pancreatic cancer patients survive more than five years.

She beat the odds and lived six more years.

The Calverts made the most of that time, travelling each spring to Big Bend National Park and spending summers in New Mexico and Colorado.

“Those six years were a bonus,” Mr. Calvert recalled. “I always like to say Paula was not perfect, but she was certainly perfect for me. She was my friend, the love of my life, my hero, and clearly my better half. We were fortunate to have each other in our lives.”

Mrs. Calvert died in 2017 after the cancer metastasized to her chest and lungs. She was 78.

A Way to Say Thank You

In 2014, halfway through his wife’s cancer fight, Mr. Calvert read an article about a patient making a gift to honor her doctor.

“Paula and I looked at each other and said, ‘We could do that for Dr. Verma,’” Mr. Calvert said. “I thought we might inspire others to give as well.”

Dr. Udit Verma
Dr. Udit Verma UT Southwestern Medical Center

Their initial gift established the H. Ray and Paula Calvert Fund in Gastroenterology Oncology in honor of Udit Verma, M.D. Earnings from the endowment were designated for Dr. Verma’s research.

“The Calverts’ support is the ultimate sign of their big hearts. They believe passionately in our research,” said Dr. Verma. “And because the Calverts have created a research endowment, it will support my efforts and the efforts of those who come after me.”

Mr. Calvert went on to make additional gifts to UT Southwestern. One supported patient services at the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. Another funded the creation of a resource guide for first-time cancer patients.

“We asked if they could put Paula’s picture on the back, which they did,” Mr. Calvert said. “It makes me happy to see Paula’s picture out there.”

Around the time of Mrs. Calvert’s death, Mr. Calvert committed to a gift from his will to UT Southwestern. The planned gift includes a testamentary charitable remainder unitrust, which will provide income for his children for the rest of their lives. Whatever is left will benefit pancreatic cancer research at UT Southwestern. It’s an opportunity to make the giving he started with his wife part of his legacy.

“Making these gifts to help research and other patients was exactly what Paula wanted,” he said. “Paula always guided me to do what I can to spare future generations from this terrible disease.”

In recognition of his commitment, Mr. Calvert was welcomed into the Heritage Society, a membership organization that honors donors who have made a planned gift to UT Southwestern or Southwestern Medical Foundation.

“The sustained generosity of Mr. Calvert, now continuing in his late wife’s honor, will help our clinicians and researchers to advance our understanding and treatment of pancreatic cancer which remains one of medicine’s most daunting challenges,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “Gifts received from Heritage Society members create lasting and impactful legacies and hold special significance at UT Southwestern.”

Lasting Impact

Last summer, Mr. Calvert made an additional gift to the research endowment he established with his wife, bringing the fund’s total to $500,000.

The investment earnings from the endowment directly support Dr. Verma’s pancreatic cancer research.

"It makes it a forever kind of fund – forever remembering Paula."

Ray Calvert

“There was no doubt in my and my wife’s minds that we wanted to help him with that valuable work,” Mr. Calvert said.

In the future, after Dr. Verma eventually retires, Mr. Calvert wants to transition his research endowment to an endowed chair devoted to supporting a faculty leader involved with pancreatic cancer research and patient services. The chair will be named the H. Ray and Paula Calvert Chair in Gastroenterology Oncology and will give UT Southwestern an important tool for recruiting the next visionary researcher to build on Dr. Verma’s work.

Like the research endowment, the endowed chair will be invested for the benefit of UT Southwestern. Earnings will support the work of the chair holder.

“The endowed chair will create a sense of perpetuity for the pancreatic research done in Paula’s name,” Mr. Calvert said. “That’s the significant thing. It makes it a forever kind of fund – forever remembering Paula.”

  • Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.