Helen Woodward Rivas

Vision Meets Philanthropy

In 1956, the vision of Dr. George Koepf and generosity of Helen Woodward Rivas founded the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

Ms. Rivas was the youngest child of Orator and Cora Talmage Woodward of LeRoy, New York. The Woodwards owned and operated the Genesee Pure Food, Co. In 1899, Orator purchased a unique recipe that he named Jell-O, which became the company’s claim to fame. The couple had six children; Helen was their youngest.

While a patient of Dr. Koepf, Helen learned of his deep interest in basic research and his belief that it was vital to improving human health. To his vision she pledged generous financial support. Her foresight and his dream established Buffalo’s only independent research institution, which now has an international reputation for excellence in structural biology.

Ms. Rivas’s gift of $3 million in 1956 is equivalent to $26 million today.


1956 | Medical Foundation of Buffalo is founded by Dr. George F. Koepf

Helen Woodward Rivas gifts $3 million.

1963 | HWI on the Move

Moved to 73 High Street Facility.

1985 | Dr. Hauptman awarded Nobel Prize

Dr. Herbert A. Hauptman is awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

1994 | Institute Renamed

Institute is renamed the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute.

1999 | Grants

$1.5 million challenge grant received from the Oishei Foundation. $750,000 award received from Margaret L. Wendt Foundation. The Structural Biology Center is established.

2000 | HTS Established

High Throughput Crystallization Lab (HTS) is established

2002 | Pledges

The Oishei Foundation pledges $3.5 million. The Goode Trust pledges $225,000.

2003 | New Facility

Construction of the new state of the art facility begins. The James H. Cummings Foundation pledges $750,000.

2005 | Move to BNMC

The Institute moves into a new facility as a founding member of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

2008 | High School Apprenticeship Begins

The Institute starts the high school apprenticeship program.

2012 | HTS Lab

The High-Throughput Crystallization Screening Center surpasses 21 million crystallization experiments.

2016 | Bright Future

Celebrating 60 years, HWI's faculty have contributed over 2,250 publication to science, received over 32 awards and 13 honorary degrees, a Nobel Prize, and an NSF Science and Technology Center. They continue to thrive...