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Family's Stanford Connections Lead to Support for Medical Research

Marka and Jerry Hemphill

Marka and Jerry Hemphill

When Marka Hemphill's grandfather graduated from Cooper Medical College—the forerunner of Stanford University School of Medicine—in 1907, it marked the beginning of a family legacy of Stanford connections.

"My grandfather was the doctor for the company that built Canyon Dam, which forms Lake Almanor in northern California. So, he always called himself the 'dam doctor,'" she says with a laugh. The Great Western Power Company constructed the dam in 1910.

Marka's father and uncle also graduated with medical degrees from Stanford.

Situated in the northern California community of Westwood, her father and grandfather practiced medicine together. And when it came time for Marka, her brother, and her sister to go to college, they all went to Stanford—where her brother Henry "Hank" Davis '59, MD '62, added to the family's collection of degrees from the School of Medicine.

"I graduated in biological sciences in 1960," she says. Later, she received a master's degree in botany from the University of Wisconsin. "But I actually taught kindergarten for 25 years. It was pretty ideal, very enjoyable."

She also assisted in medical care of another sort—at a veterinary hospital.

"My husband, Jerry, is a veterinarian, so I assisted in the veterinary hospital that we built next to our house on our ranch in Susanville," she says.

One day, Jerry was working cattle on the ranch while riding a young horse. Suddenly, the horse went down and Jerry's head hit the ground.

"Then, the horse got up and Jerry's foot was caught in the stirrup. And the horse dragged him around in a big circle. I was able to get his foot out of the stirrup, but it was terrifying, it really was," says Marka.

"I was in a coma for 30 days and was never expected to recover. Doctors thought I would be in a permanent vegetative state," says Jerry. "I woke up and realized I was all right. It's been pretty easy to live one day at a time since then.

"When I woke up in the hospital, the first thing I can remember is Marka saying she was sorry she didn't have any children. Two years later, we had four little kids—two sets of twins, back-to-back."

Continuing in the family tradition, one of their daughters (who later had her own set of twins) graduated from Stanford, where she now lives on campus with her husband, a professor of radiology.

Now retired, Marka and Jerry still run their farm and ranch in Susanville, with 60 head of Angus cattle.

"I want her to get rid of the cows…but I think she'll get rid of me before," says Jerry, laughing.

The couple is enthused about creating a legacy that includes supporting medical research at Stanford.

"I had to put myself through veterinary school, with no financial help at all, so I would like to help needy students where we can," says Jerry. "It takes a lot of money to do basic science research, and researchers need it to be unrestricted, so they can use the funds to develop their work.

"At our age, we thought a charitable gift annuity was a good thing to do. Each year, we get paid 6 percent of the amount we gave, plus we were influenced by the fact that we could have a tax deduction," says Jerry.

"Medical research is so important," says Marka. It's certain her grandfather—the family's 'dam doctor'—would agree.

Gifts like the one Marka and Jerry Hemphill made to Stanford can provide years of support for advances like lifesaving technology or medical research. If you would like to learn more about making a tax-smart gift of your own to Stanford, please contact the Office of Planned Giving at 650.723.6560 or

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