A Legacy of Giving Supports Next-Level Drug Research at the UW

When Anna Apinis fled Latvia and immigrated to the United States during World War II, along with her husband, Janis ‘54, and their two small children, John and Rasma, she had no choice but to abandon her pharmaceutical career. “My mother had a master’s degree in pharmacy, but it was not valid in the United States,” says John ‘64. “The first job she had here was cleaning homes for wealthy people.”

The Apinis family arrived in the United States in the late 1940s with no money and didn’t speak a word of English. After working as a custodian, Anna was eventually able to return to her health care roots when she accepted a position with on-the-job training as a medical lab technician for researcher and surgeon Frederic Mohs ’32, MD’34 at UW Hospital.

His parents’ selfless act of leaving everything behind for a better life for their family inspired John and his wife, Inara, to create an endowed fund for the UW School of Pharmacy. The Anna Apinis Professorship at the UW School of Pharmacy is committed to drug discovery research.

“It occurred to me that if we opened up a second laboratory, it would be another step toward making the University of Wisconsin–Madison a real powerhouse in drug research,” shares John.

In five years, once fully funded, the professorship will yield about $45,000 per year to support the school. “Our research enterprise is stronger than ever thanks to important efforts like this endowed professorship,” says Steven Swanson, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “We are grateful to the Apinis family for their unwavering support of our faculty and students and for their commitment to our ongoing success.”

This fund is not only transformational for the school, but it also has ongoing significance for Anna’s surviving family members. Despite all the obstacles they faced, the Apinis family thrived in this country and at this university, including John’s sister, Rasma ’66, who also earned her undergraduate degree from the School of Pharmacy. “My mother started and ended her career in the health care profession, so it makes sense to connect her to this professorship,” John remarks. “I am pleased we have set some things in motion that will produce good results.”