When Dr. Thomas F. Whayne Jr. passed away at the age of 82 on June 19, 2020, it was a shock to everyone who knew him. That age hadn't slowed him down surprised even himself. In an interview conducted in late 2019, Dr. Whayne explained, "I came to UK from the Lexington Clinic at St. Joseph's Hospital in 1998 when I was 60 and thought I would work five more years and then retire. But I'm still full time at 82."
He was a man of such energy and intellect that one very demanding field—cardiology—was not enough to contain his determination to help people. He also wanted to be bilingual.
Dr. Whayne first studied Spanish at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., in the 1950s. "I had an incredibly brilliant Spanish teacher in high school," he said. Two years of study with her was enough of a foundation for him to leap into Spanish 4 as a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received an A.B. in chemistry in 1959.
The demands of the premed and medical school curriculums meant putting Spanish on hold for a few years. After earning a medical degree from Penn in 1963 and serving an internship in Internal Medicine at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Whayne pursued cardiovascular training at the University of California-San Francisco, including an academic year at the University of Toronto.
He earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from UCSF in 1970, and in that year alone published four medical articles. Over the next 50 years, he would publish over 180 medical articles, including 110 Medline-listed publications in PubMed. That research was conducted at a variety of institutions: 1970–72 at Ohio State, 1972–77 at the University of Oklahoma, 1977–1998 in private practice at the Lexington Clinic at St. Joseph's Hospital, and finally 1998–2020 at the University of Kentucky.
It was during his time at the Lexington Clinic that Spanish re-entered Dr. Whayne's life. "Many years passed, and for some crazy reason in 1990 I decided that I wanted to study Spanish again," he explained. "I called what was then the Department of Spanish and Italian at UK and I was put in touch with a then-graduate student from Chile."
Meeting with this graduate student on a weekly basis helped Dr. Whayne regenerate his Spanish speaking skills and this individual became the first of a long series of graduate students whom he employed to converse with in Spanish.
For the next two decades, hiring graduate students to converse with him remained a staple of Dr. Whayne's professional life. Usually, he employed two students at a time to ensure two Spanish conversations per week. It took about 10 years, until 2000, for him to feel like he was fluent. "Now I know Spanish grammar better than English grammar," he remarked.
Dr. Whayne's enthusiasm for the Spanish language and for helping graduate students came from the same character traits that made him a great doctor. Professor Emeritus Edward Stanton from Hispanic Studies recalls, "Those who knew Tom as a physician always spoke of his knowledge and indefatigable research, his rapport, care and compassion for patients."
Dr. Whayne became increasingly philanthropic, supporting a variety of funds over the years along with his wife, Genie. He endowed the Thomas F. Whayne Professor of Heart Health Fund at the UK College of Medicine and also made annual contributions to the Department of Hispanic Studies in support of the cause that had become dear to his heart—graduate student scholarships.
Though he was frequently solicited by his various institutions, Dr. Whayne knew early on that the University of Kentucky was where he wanted to give. "I just decided, I'll keep my money in Kentucky," he said. "I'll keep this commitment until my death and then provide a significant sum in my will when I die. It's loyalty. I'm here to stay."
The Thomas F. Whayne, Jr. Graduate Excellence Endowment in Hispanic Studies is the result of that bequest.
Dr. Whayne completed the gift in a tax-efficient manner by making this endowment at UK a partial beneficiary of his retirement account. Because the University is a charitable organization, it pays no income tax on the appreciation of those gifted investment assets.
"Tax-wise gift planning is one of the hallmarks of how our alumni and friends, like Dr. Whayne, are able to make a tremendous impact upon our faculty and students," said D. Michael Richey, vice president for philanthropy and alumni engagement. "We are grateful for Dr. Whayne and his family for his incredible service to UK and for his distinct passion for Hispanic Studies and graduate students."
Dr. Whayne's Fund will ensure that Hispanic Studies graduate students, who are the linchpin of the department, participating in every aspect of undergraduate teaching and faculty research, will be well supported. Kentucky has sizable Hispanic communities throughout the state, and a thriving department at the state's flagship university is now better equipped to ensure that the language and people Dr. Whayne loved will continue to flourish. "The language is so beautiful," he said, "and I really do have a passion for it."
You can use your giving to support the areas you are most passionate about at UK, like Dr. Whayne did. Contact Gift and Estate Planning at firstname.lastname@example.org or (859) 257-7886 to get started creating your UK legacy.