James and Jean Culver Vision Discovery Institute

Our Namesakes

Plan your work, then work your plan (but don't forget to have some fun along the way). A simple creed that really works, not only in your chosen profession but in life and in giving as well.

For longer than most of us can remember, leaders in industry, business, public service, the military, higher education and philanthropy have "planned their work and worked their plan." Some of the terminology has evolved over the years, coining phrases such as strategic plan, paradigm shift and continuous quality improvement. But the basics have stayed the same: make a good plan, then work hard to make it happen. Gen. James F. Culver and his wife, Jean, have been doing just that during their 65 plus years together.

Born in 1921 in Macon, Ga., where he attended elementary and secondary schools, Culver is Georgia born and bred. After attending Virginia Military Institute and Mercer University, he matriculated at the Medical College of Georgia. He planned to become a physician and worked diligently toward that goal.

Culver was a gifted student, both smart and serious. But he was ever mindful of the great balancing act of life - making sure to incorporate fun and laughter along the way, relishing both the journey and the goal.

While following his plan to become a physician specializing in ophthalmology, he met a beautiful nurse and his soul mate, Jean, along the way. They married in 1947 and have been best friends ever since.

As a new physician, Culver went into private practice in California, settling with Jean into a home overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

But plans have a way of shifting. Such was the case when the U.S. Air Force came calling - looking for medical expertise for its aerospace program. This exciting chapter in Culver's practice included supporting the astronauts of the Mercury and Gemini projects, treating President Lyndon B. Johnson and having a significant impact on the vision care of members of the USAF.

He chaired the Aerospace Medical Panel for the Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development-NATO from 1972-74 and was President of the Space Medicine Branch of the Aerospace Medical Association.

Culver accumulated numerous awards, all the while serving as a gifted chief flight surgeon, with more than 2,000 flying hours. But the award he holds most dear is the prestigious Arnold D. Tuttle Award, given by the Aerospace Medical Association. Culver earned this award for his investigation into the potential impact of flying and aerospace duties on ocular disease - groundbreaking research in support of the new and exciting frontier of space travel.

Meanwhile, Culver and his wife enjoyed seeing the world. Throughout his professional life, spanning over 50 years, he quietly harbored another plan . . . a plan to give back, particularly to the people and institutions which helped mentor and mold him to become an accomplished surgeon and Air Force officer.

So, when Dr. Julian Nussbaum, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and leader of the Vision Discovery Institute , contacted Culver to engage him as a respected professional colleague, it seems only natural that a plan would be born.

Culver quickly embraced the work being done at the VDI as it resonated with his own lifelong journey to find solutions to ocular disease problems. In fact, Culver has authored over 50 papers on experimental and clinical ophthalmology with emphasis on ocular effects of radiation, retinal burns, flash-blindness, glaucoma and aerospace medicine. So he fully appreciates the VDI mission, particularly "to have far-reaching clinical applications for patients suffering from blindness and visual disorders." The Medical College of Georgia beckoned as a worthy institution for his philanthropic plans.

The two scientists/researchers/clinicians quickly became friends as well as colleagues. By this time, the Culvers had retired to Florida and the Nussbuam family, with two young children in tow and Disney World beckoning, began including a visit to the Culvers as part of their regular trek to the sunshine state. An unbreakable bond was formed. And, not surprisingly, a visionary plan was born.

Wishing to make a difference and to leave a legacy for future generations, the Culvers planned a gift of magnanimous proportions. Their $2 million donation will be transformational for the VDI and for the legions of students, researchers and patients who will benefit from its work. Even prior to the commitment by the Culvers, Nussbaum and his family shared a deep and abiding respect for the family. It is with great humility that Nussbaum will look up each day to see the name of his trusted friends as he enters the General James F. Culver, M.D and Jean Culver Visionary Discovery Institute. An institute of great scholarship and research. An institute worthy of the Culver name.