In memoriam: Kathrine G. McGovern

By Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD
December 8, 2023

It is with great sadness that I share that our dear friend Kathrine G. McGovern—who helped to transform UTHealth Houston into what it is today—passed away on Dec. 1. She was 90.

Known for her kindness and commitment to community service, Kathy and her husband, John P. McGovern, MD, dedicated their lives to making Houston a better place, and UTHealth Houston was among the institutions where they sought to bolster education, scientific discovery, and innovation.

Through the John P. McGovern Foundation, which was founded in 1961—the same year they wed—the McGoverns left a stamp of goodwill and giving across the Greater Houston area.

Kathy and Dr. McGovern, a pediatrician, allergist, immunologist, and educator who helped shape the Texas Medical Center in its formative years, shared a vision for supporting the art and science of medicine. In 1981, their foundation made a $100,000 gift to the university to establish a professorship in health promotion at our School of Public Health. It was the first of 526 gifts totaling almost $93 million the McGoverns have given to support our six schools, in addition to university-wide initiatives ranging from lecture series to student scholarships to medical humanities and ethics

After her husband passed in 2007, Kathy became president of the John P. McGovern Foundation and seamlessly led the foundation’s board as chair for more than 15 years—creating her own legacy of generosity and community service

In the fall of 2015, the John P. McGovern Foundation made a transformational $75 million gift to the university and our medical school. In honor of the gift—the largest in the history of both UTHealth Houston and the foundation—the school was renamed John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Medical School.

Kathy and other members of the John P. McGovern Foundation joined students, faculty, and staff in Webber Plaza to celebrate the renaming. Though she usually avoided the spotlight—preferring instead that the foundation’s actions and giving speak for themselves—on this occasion she agreed to make brief remarks and pose for a few photographs.

“I know my late husband would be so proud to see the McGovern name linked to such a forward-thinking institution devoted to teaching generations of future physicians to be humanistic and compassionate caregivers,” she told the crowd.

We will forever be grateful to Kathy, Dr. McGovern, and members of the John P. McGovern Foundation’s board. More than 60 years after the establishment of the foundation, the McGoverns’ vision continues to transform the Texas Medical Center and Houston as a whole.

A memorial service honoring Kathrine G. McGovern will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 5501 Main St., Houston, Texas 77004. A livestream of the service can be found online.