By all accounts, James Raisbeck was larger than life.
An aviation industry icon whose company, Raisbeck Engineering, pioneered many innovations that are still in commercial use today, he was always on the move — and always in search of adventure.
In 1986, he met his match in his soon-to-be wife, Sherry, a special education teacher with a passion for the arts.
“I had never met anyone like James,” says Sherry. “I felt that he had so much yet to show and become.”
One of the traits she nurtured in her husband was generosity. Over the course of their 35-year marriage, the Raisbecks left a deep imprint on the Seattle area through their philanthropy. They invested heavily in the arts and medicine, giving more than $10 million in total to UW Medicine over the past two decades.
The Raisbecks’ interest in supporting medical research stems from personal experience. In his mid-60s, James was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, leading him to seek treatment from Daniel Fishbein, MD, a cardiologist and researcher at UW Medicine. That diagnosis was the beginning of a long, gradual season of decline. When James’ pancreatic function also began to wane, he sought treatment from Irl Hirsch, MD, a UW Medicine physician who specializes in diabetes and endocrinology.
“Both physicians demonstrated tremendous dedication,” says Sherry. “We both felt that they deserved our support to get their research out there and continue to improve things for their patients.”
In gratitude for Fishbein and his colleagues in the Division of Cardiology, Sherry and James established the Clinical Research Program to provide funding for junior faculty members engaged in heart failure and transplant research. In addition, they created other funds to advance leading-edge, technology-driven diabetes research and care. They also served on the UW Medicine Diabetes Institute’s Campaign Council during the Accelerate Campaign, which raised over $2 billion in support of research, education and patient care.
Sherry’s health issues informed their giving as well. She has long suffered from osteoarthritis, which has wreaked havoc on her spine and required countless surgeries. Her spine function has improved under the care of UW neurosurgeon Christoph Hofstetter, MD, who has also become a trusted friend.
“I have always felt like I am being watched over carefully by Dr. Hofstetter,” she says.
In appreciation for his work, Sherry and James visited the Hofstetter lab after one of her surgeries to learn more about the research that took place there. Their initial investment in the lab’s work helped launch SPINEHealthie, a mobile application with more than 200 patient users. To help attract and retain talented spine surgeons, Sherry also committed $2 million to endow a chair in the Department of Neurological Surgery.