University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content
Mary Wilson

Mary Wilson and fellow trustees of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation have made a gift that will help support UB orthopaedics training and further research and patient care.

Wilson Foundation Makes $4 Million Gift to UB Orthopaedics

Published November 6, 2015

The University at Buffalo has received a $4 million gift to establish the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Center of Excellence in Sports Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“We feel extremely lucky to be the recipient of one of the legacy grants through the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. What the grant will allow us to do is to continue our programs in perpetuity.”
Clinical associate professor of orthopaedics

Mary Wilson, wife of the late Ralph C. Wilson Jr. — founder and Hall of Fame owner of the Buffalo Bills — said she and her fellow trustees of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation are giving to UB in recognition of its sports medicine physicians and the success of their teaching and research in the field.

“We feel extremely lucky to be the recipient of one of the legacy grants through the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation,” said John M. Marzo, MD, clinical associate professor of orthopaedics, who worked nearly two decades as Buffalo Bills’ medical director for Ralph Wilson.

“What the grant will allow us to do is to continue our programs in perpetuity.”

Supporting Sports Medicine in Past, Future Endeavors

In 2011, the Wilsons gave $1 million to the Department of Orthopaedics.

They knew the UB sports medicine doctors as team physicians for their Buffalo Bills football team. 

“As owner of the Bills, Ralph often said team doctors were the most important players on the sideline,” said Mary Wilson. “This grant is yet another testament to the incredible, groundbreaking work taking place right here in Western New York that has an impact on athletes across the country.”

The new gift will continue to support several initiatives that were started as a result of the Wilsons’ 2011 gift.

“This will be a way for us to carry on the Wilson name and all will see the programs we have providing good clinical care to the patients and athletes of Western New York,” said Marzo.

Furthering Research in Traumatic Brain Injury

The new grant will help support work by John J. Leddy, MD, clinical professor of orthopaedics and director of the Concussion Management Clinic, who conducts research in traumatic brain injury.

Leddy and fellow researchers are internationally renowned for a program that can determine when or whether it would be safe for athletes to return to play.

“This has helped them garner an NIH-level grant,” noted Marzo. “So we’re finding that the seed money, if you will, from the Wilsons has helped us leverage other grants and industrial financial support for continued research.”

Supporting Lecture Series, Teaching Lab

The grant will support the Ralph and Mary Wilson Visiting Professor Lecture Series, which Marzo said “has allowed us an enlightened intellectual interchange between some of the world’s experts in sports medicine” and brought greater exposure of UB’s program worldwide.

It will also support the arthroscopy teaching lab, where the physicians teach surgical skills to UB residents and fellows in a controlled environment, using a virtual reality arthroscopy simulator.

This allows the trainees to learn with “no time constraints and much less pressure,” said Marzo. “Across the board, my partners and I have seen that their skill level has risen from what we used to see, when we had to teach them in bits and pieces in a real operating room.”

Attracting Physicians, Trainees to Western New York

The grant will help bring the best doctors to Western New York, said Marzo.

“The exposure from the Wilson visiting professorship and other initiatives funded through the Wilson gift has allowed us to attract highly trained trainees, who end up staying in Western New York after their UB teaching experience,” he said.

Wilson Foundation Was Established in 2011

The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is a newly funded private foundation headquartered in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.

It was established in 2011 by Ralph C. Wilson Jr. to be the vehicle for receiving a substantial amount of his estate’s proceeds, which are to be used exclusively for charitable purposes. 

Wilson passed away March 25, 2014, after which the trustees liquidated the majority of his estate’s assets and funded the foundation with $1.2 billion in early 2015.