Donor Story

The Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Foundation, and its leadership, Edward R. Naumes, Peggy Larkin Kelly, C. Ronald Dorchester, Michael L. Patrick, and Carl F. Jaedicke, (not pictured Frances Escriva), continue to bridge gaps in health care, education, and community development, with its commitment to Mikhail Kolonin, PhD, Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Distinguished University Chair in Metabolic Disease Research, and the Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Diseases.


Towering over vast rivers and winding chasms, bridges connect distant people and places, linking entire communities through architectural marvels. For Harry E. Bovay, Jr., an engineer who grew up witnessing how the bridges his father built impacted local communities, these structures came to take on a different meaning.

Through philanthropy, he worked to bridge gaps in health care, education, and community development to create a path forward for future generations—a mission that the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Foundation continues today.

Bovay earned an engineering degree at Cornell University and pursued a fruitful career in the energy and telecommunications sectors. In 2004, he made his first philanthropic commitment to UTHealth Houston, launching an enduring partnership dedicated to improving health.

He established the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Distinguished University Chair in Metabolic Disease Research at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, which is now held by Mikhail Kolonin, PhD, professor in The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases. This initial commitment also laid the groundwork for the Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Diseases at the Institute of Molecular Medicine.

Throughout the Many Faces. One Mission. philanthropic campaign, the foundation has built on this initial commitment and expanded Bovay’s legacy through contributions to initiate new studies on metabolic diseases while advancing the careers of young scientists in the field.

“The Bovay Foundation’s generosity to the Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Diseases has enabled us to kickstart innovative and impactful metabolism research as well as pursue collaborations with other leaders in the field,” said Kolonin, director of the center.

With the foundation’s support, Kolonin and his team are shedding light on cellular aging and the development of diseases associated with obesity. In particular, Kolonin has made critical discoveries linking different types of adipose cells—fatty, connective tissue cells found throughout the body—to common health conditions ranging from cancer to type 2 diabetes.

“Mr. Bovay would be very pleased with the research Dr. Kolonin and his team are doing,” said Michael (Mike) Patrick, president of the Harry E. Bovay, Jr. Foundation. “He would be sitting in meetings with the scientists and asking hundreds of questions about their discoveries. I think he would be tickled by all the wonderful things they are doing.”

The Bovay Foundation also established the annual Harry E. Bovay Lecture Series in Molecular Medicine in 2005, which hosts world-renowned experts who share their latest research findings with students, residents, and faculty. The series honors Bovay as a philanthropist focused on building bridges between the laboratory bench and patient bedside.

In 2022, the Bovay Foundation partnered again with UTHealth Houston by providing vital resources for Kolonin and his team to continue their research in metabolic medicine. The foundation’s support also will help launch research on types of breast cancer resistant to traditional therapies.

“Throughout my career working for Mr. Bovay, he always wanted to find the best possible people and organizations to collaborate with in order to accomplish a goal,” Patrick said. “I think that is what we have found at UTHealth Houston. People like Dr. Kolonin, who have the dedication, desire, and ability to help others, are truly wonderful.”