Future Focused

Cece and Ford Lacy build on 30 years supporting research at UT Southwestern with a gift from their will

Back in the early 1980s, Cece and Ford Lacy found themselves in a bit of an intellectual quandary. Steeped in the Dallas community, they had certainly heard of UT Southwestern Medical Center. But as they listened to soon-to-be Nobel Laureates, Joseph Goldstein, M.D., and Michael Brown, M.D., discuss their groundbreaking research on cholesterol, they realized how little they knew about the institution.

Cece and Ford Lacy
Cece and Ford Lacy Provided by Ford Lacy

"We had no idea that kind of work was being done,” Mr. Lacy said.

After the lecture, the couple approached then-UT Southwestern President, Charles C. Sprague, M.D., with an idea.

“Ford and I felt compelled to spread the word about how much important science was happening right here in Dallas,” Mrs. Lacy said.

The couple saw an opportunity for the institution to engage with the Dallas community and showcase the groundbreaking work underway. The idea quickly grew into UT Southwestern’s first philanthropic organization, the President’s Research Council. The Lacys invited 10 of their closest friends to the inaugural event. Today it boasts more than 200 members.

Group of people in a small auditorium listen to Daniel K. Podolsky speak at a lectern.
Members of the President's Research Council, including Cece and Ford Lacy, center, listen as UT Southwestern President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky speaks at an event in 2018.UT Southwestern Medical Center

Envisioned as an organization for people who share a passion for learning about UT Southwestern’s advances, the Council organizes four annual programs that feature faculty driving discovery at the Medical Center. Researchers explain their work in accessible terms that can be understood by everyone, something that was important to the Lacys.

“Cece and I are definitely not scientists,” said Mr. Lacy, a former partner with the international law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

Through annual membership gifts, President’s Research Council members support the annual Distinguished Early Career Research Awards, grants given to researchers who are pursuing promising research but may not have amassed the data often required to pursue federal funding. During its 30-year history, the Council has raised more than $3.8 million to support UT Southwestern faculty.

“Ford and I felt compelled to spread the word about how much important science was happening right here in Dallas.”

“Recipients consider these awards as significant as venture capital,” said Mrs. Lacy, Co-Founder and retired Managing General Partner of Phillips-Smith-Machens Venture Partners.

Recently, the Lacys made a $1 million gift from their will to support the President’s Research Council. In recognition of their commitment, the couple was welcomed into The Heritage Society, an organization that honors donors who make a planned gift to UT Southwestern or Southwestern Medical Foundation.

The gift will create an endowment that will be invested for the long-term benefit of UT Southwestern. Distributions from the endowment will be used to support the President’s Research Council and provide additional early-stage research funding.

Cece and Ford Lacy speak with two award recipients
Cece and Ford Lacy, second and fourth from left, speak with faculty recipients of the Distingushed Early Career Awards at the President's Research Council's annual membership dinner at UT Southwestern in 2016. UT Southwestern Medical Center

For the Lacys, it has been gratifying to see how the organization has inspired philanthropy to UT Southwestern.

“Before joining the Council, many of our members did not have much involvement with UT Southwestern. But after joining, they have gone on to support so many other programs and other research, putting together other endowments like ours,” said Mrs. Lacy.

Creating that sense of engagement and passion for UT Southwestern has been central to decades of work from the couple who started the President’s Research Council. With their latest gift, they hope to advance early-stage research at UT Southwestern for years to come.

  • Dr. Brown holds The W.A. (Monty) Moncrief Distinguished Chair in Cholesterol and Arteriosclerosis Research and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine.
  • Dr. Goldstein holds the Julie and Louis A. Beecherl, Jr. Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Research and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine.
  • 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.