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Giving in Action: Honoring family and the value of education

Posted by Sarah Wolf on Friday, March 19, 2021 in Giving in Action, Spring 2021, Vanderbilt Community, Winter 2021 .

Laura Webb Lamps, MD’92, HS, FE, is quick to describe what made her medical school experience special: the people. “The faculty really set the bar for caring, and our class followed suit. If someone wasn’t in class, a peer or a professor would follow up to check on that person.”

In her second year of medical school, Lamps began working in the lab of George Gray, who cemented her interest in pathology. Lamps remembers Gray not only as a remarkable diagnostician but also as an exceptional writer. “Pathologists have a heavy responsibility to translate — to take our findings and help others apply those to the understanding of disease. George’s mentorship was key to a truly comprehensive training in pathology.” As the Godfrey Dorr Stobbe Professor of Gastrointestinal Pathology at the University of Michigan, Lamps is one of four editors of the 11th edition of “Rosai and Ackerman’s Surgical Pathology” textbook — one of the most widely circulated surgical pathology textbooks in the world.

When Lamps and her husband, Paul Ward, moved to Michigan in 2017, they took a fresh look at their estate plans. Motivated by helping students with the daunting tuition that accompanies a top medical education, they documented a bequest to support scholarships in the School of Medicine. Their planned gift will endow the Linda Venable Webb and John H. Venable Scholarship, honoring the memory of Lamps’ mother and uncle, both of whom had significant Vanderbilt ties.

Lamps recalls how her mother, Linda Venable Webb, a 1962 graduate of the College of Arts and Science, always championed the power of education. “My mom valued education and was a tireless proponent of it. She was really well read; she wrote beautifully, and she instilled such an appreciation for how education can be life changing.”

Webb’s Vanderbilt experience resulted in a new sister-in-law after she introduced college friend Alys O’Brien Venable, BA’62, to Webb’s brother, John “Jack” Venable. Venable, Lamps’ uncle, was a professor of Biological Sciences before serving as dean of the College of Arts and Science from 1981 to 2002. “To say my uncle was an educator doesn’t do it justice,” said Lamps. “He knew how to navigate education and to help others — be it students or faculty — in their pursuits. He was a true academic citizen.”

In addition to Lamps’ mother, uncle, aunt and brother, William Webb Jr., BS’91, Ward has his own set of Vanderbilt connections, including his sister Caroline Ward Fox, BA’84, cousins Marie Taylor Backer, BA’72, and Betsy Taylor, BA’74. Ward’s great uncle, Colonel William Hopson, BA’28, also left an estate gift to support scholarships at Vanderbilt.

The scholarship established by Lamps and Ward will carry forth a legacy of helping others through education, modeled by both the scholarship’s namesakes as well as Lamps herself. Her advice to students considering a medical career today: “I’ve never regretted my decision to go into medicine, especially academic medicine. To do something every day that brings such intellectual joy while at the same time doing what matters — medicine has been incredibly fulfilling.”

For more information about how to support Vanderbilt medical students through scholarships, contact Taylor Wood at or 615-343-5648.

Posted by Ann Marie Deer Owens