Gifts in Kind

While it is true that most donations to Wistar arrive in the form of a check or direct monetary contributions, sometimes they take a less orthodox or more creative form. In the cases of Barry Glaser, M.D., and Emily Brown Shields, the tie that binds them to Wistar is historical. For Glaser, it is his deep interest in collecting medical artifacts. For Shields, it is family. 

I was very happy to find these documents.”

Barry Glaser spends a lot of time sorting through old documents and artifacts in antique and consignment shops. Glaser is a retired surgeon who practiced at Abington Memorial Hospital. His hobby — his passion really — is collecting Americana, including furniture, paintings, and items related to medical history. On one such foraging trip, he ran across several documents from the estate of Caspar Wistar, M.D., the Institute’s namesake. 

An exhaustive inventory of the estate of Caspar Wistar, M.D., rendered in fine penmanship, is the scholarly treasure donated to the Institute by Barry Glaser, M.D.The most important document in Glaser’s find was an inventory of Caspar Wistar’s estate, but he also obtained Caspar Wistar’s membership in the Philadelphia Dispensary and the Library Company, as well as several newspaper articles and an obituary for Caspar Wistar from 1818.


“As a physician, I have a great interest in the history of medicine in Philadelphia, which is extraordinarily rich,” Glaser said. “As a collector, I have developed an eye for what is important, and I was very happy to find these documents.”

Glaser didn’t know too much about The Wistar Institute, but a good friend of his, Roy Shapiro, did. Shapiro suggested that Wistar might be interested in obtaining the documents to fill some gaps in its historical archives. Glaser contacted Wistar President and CEO, Russel Kaufman, M.D., who gladly took him up on his offer.

“We place great value on our history,” said Kaufman. “We are planning to maintain a special area to highlight our history and these documents will make a wonderful addition to our collection. Caspar Wistar’s own collections formed the basis of The Wistar Institute and have been part of our heritage ever since. We are very happy to work with Dr. Glaser on this gift.”

 Do I have a property for you.”

Emily Brown Shields has a different kind of connection to Wistar. She is a direct descendant of the Institute’s founder, Isaac Wistar. Shields became interested in Wistar when she learned of her historical ties and began to make contributions a number of years ago. Those contributions grew over time. Shields, a graphic artist and calligrapher, concedes that she doesn’t fully understand the science but has great respect for the institution and its remarkable record of contributions. 

“Science is a mystery to me,” she said. “I came to realize though that science is in its own way just as creative as art, and that fascinates me.”

It was during a lunch with Vice President of Institutional Development Peter Corrado that the possibility of making a gift in kind arose. They were discussing various ways of giving and Corrado said the word “property.” It struck an instant chord with Shields who had inherited a tract of land in Alabama. Shields had no interest in owning the property so her immediate response to Corrado was, “Do I have a property for you.”

To the benefit of both parties, they were able to work things out. Corrado, she said, “handled all the gory details,” and was able to arrange for the property to be sold and convert it into a significant gift for Wistar. Shields was pleased to make the contribution — and to be relieved of eight acres of land near Mobile that she didn’t want.

“I think both Barry Glaser’s and Emily Shields’s donations say something about the rich history of The Wistar Institute and the ways that it still has an impact today,” said Corrado. “It’s very rewarding to have the opportunity to work with our donors in a creative, non-conventional way.”