Campus News

Philanthropist Creates a Legacy for Patient Care, Research, and Education Across Keck School of Medicine of USC

James “Jim” Joseph Berchtold continued his and his late wife’s proud tradition of giving back with a gift that exemplifies the lasting impact of planned giving.

Nathan Cernosek February 26, 2024
Amy and Jim Berchtold
Amy and Jim at the 2017 Leaders in Giving event

With the designation of a multi-million-dollar estate gift that includes support for Keck School of Medicine of USC, Jim Berchtold and his late wife, Amy King Dundon-Berchtold, established one of the school’s most significant planned legacy gifts. Their philanthropy has also attracted something Jim can sometimes be hesitant to embrace—the spotlight.

“Growing up and working on the farm, bucking bales of hay and moving irrigation pipes, never did I imagine I would be in a position to be making impactful gifts and impacting people in such a big way,” said Jim.

Jim was born and raised in Mount Angel, a small town in northeast Oregon where his father and grandfather served as mayor. He graduated from the University of Portland and worked for U.S. Bank for 35 years. He has two children with his first wife, who passed away in 2008 after 48 years of marriage. He married his second wife, Amy King Dundon-Berchtold, in 2010.

Amy and her family had deep-rooted connections to USC. Her mother, Joyce King Stoops, and her stepfather, Emery Stoops, were both USC Rossier School of Education professors. Amy graduated from USC Rossier in 1972 and had a successful career as a real estate investor.

Amy and her parents also shared a tradition of philanthropic support, contributing multiple gifts to USC Rossier, USC Athletics, and other university programs. Jim and Amy continued this tradition with their planned legacy gift, which supports USC Rossier, the Caruso Catholic Center, and Keck School of Medicine.

“Amy had a series of illnesses,” Jim said, reflecting on the circumstances that brought both him and Amy to trust their medical care to physicians at Keck Medicine of USC. “When it came time to talk about finalizing our estate plans, I began looking at the people who had impacted Amy and positively impacted her care.”

Jim and Amy’s gift establishes the Howard A. Liebman, MD Autoimmune Blood Disease Research Fund, which will support Liebman’s seminal efforts to better understand Evans Syndrome and develop more effective treatments for the disease.

“Evan’s Syndrome is a rare but complicated autoimmune disorder associated with attacks on the blood which can result in high risk of bleeding, severe infection, and life-threatening anemia,” said Liebman. “In children, over 50% of cases are linked to familial autoimmune disorders or immune deficiencies. However, much less is known about adult Evan’s Syndrome. The endowed fund created by Mr. and Mrs. Berchtold can be a gamechanger for this disease and may open new pathways for treatment of these patients and other autoimmune disorders.”

The gift will also establish the Mark F. Lew, MD Parkinson’s Endowed Research Fund, which will support research to improve the detection of an early biological marker for Parkinson’s disease.

“This gift will help bring a new level of resources and momentum to areas of research in Parkinson’s disease with enormous potential to transform care,” said Lew. “Creating a fund that will continuously work to bring healing and hope to patients and families is such a fitting legacy for Mr. and Mrs. Berchtold, and I could not be more grateful to be a part of it.”

Their gift also designates funds in honor of one of Jim’s physicians. The Amy K. Dundon-Berchtold and Jim Berchtold Orthopaedic Surgery Endowed Chair will be established in honor of Ram Kiran Alluri, MD, an Assistant Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery at the USC Spine Center. This will be the first endowed chair in support of orthopaedic spine surgery at Keck School of Medicine.

“It is an extremely meaningful gift and very appreciated,” said Alluri about the endowed chair named in his honor. “There are only a handful of endowed positions in spine surgery nationwide. Mr. Berchtold’s gift will do so much to push our research mission forward. It will help us advance in areas where the USC Spine Center is making remarkable progress, such as spinal fusion and regenerative medicine. I am still so early in my career, and to have my name associated with a chair that will have this incredible impact on the future of spine care is something I will always be grateful for and cherish.”

Jim decided to support Alluri in conversation with another of his physicians at Keck, Jay R. Lieberman, MD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

“Dr. Lieberman and I talked about various components of success and how one of the things that could be inspirational to others would be to endow a chair for one of the younger physicians,” said Jim. “That’s how I zeroed in on Dr. Alluri.”

Philanthropy can make a tremendous difference for medical research and innovation,” said Lieberman. “The chair established thanks to Mr. Berchtold’s generosity is a deserving honor for Dr. Alluri, a distinction for our department, and a legacy that will advance the best in spine care for years to come.

Lastly, the gift will create the Amy K. Dundon-Berchtold and Jim Berchtold Endowed Medical Scholarship Fund, which will provide indispensable support for educating and training the next generation of physicians and scientists.

“It’s been a humbling experience for me to be involved in the process and to see recognition flow my way,” Jim said. “But I always want to reflect that recognition to Amy because it all started and ends with her.”

In March this year, Jim will accept the 2024 Trojan Saint Award from the USC Caruso Catholic Center on behalf of him and Amy in recognition of their extraordinary generosity and dedication to helping others. Ever modest about his philanthropy, Jim prefers to direct attention to the causes he believes in, including the remarkable impact people can make through planned giving.

“Amy had a repeated comment about contributing and funding programs,” Jim said. “Our gifts are the stone dropping in the water. Then there are the ripple effects that can happen as a result, whether that’s the students who create phenomenal careers or just inspiring others. At this point in my life, I’m extremely grateful for and pleased to be a part of that.”