As individuals, University of Illinois emeritus professors Jiri and Ana Jonas each stood out in their fields as educators and researchers. Together, they have established a philanthropic legacy at Illinois that will stand out forever.
Jiri and Ana have long-standing and deep connections to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). Over 55 years, the couple invested in the university in a myriad of ways. Now their decades-long passion for the university at which they spent so much of their careers has inspired them to support UIUC and UIC with gifts, including endowed scholarships in the sciences at UIC, support for junior faculty or graduate fellows in the Department of Chemistry at UIUC, and additional funding for scholarships at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.
Both Jiri and Ana came to the United States in the 1960s. They married in 1968 and resided in Urbana-Champaign where they both contributed significantly to the scientific community and their fields of study. Today, the legacy of their academic achievements still lives on. Even though both enjoy well-deserved retirements, they are continuing to make an impact through their generous investment in science and medicine at UIUC and UIC.
“As new immigrants we found a home and a purpose at the University of Illinois,” said Jiri and Ana Jonas. “The University gave us amazing opportunities to grow in our professions and to prosper. Now we wish to share with new generations of students and young faculty the opportunities we were given.”
Jiri, a pioneer in the use of magnetic resonance imaging to study the structure of liquids and proteins, was a professor in the Department of Chemistry at UIUC and served as the School of Chemical Sciences director from 1983 to 1993. He also played an integral role in establishing the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and was named the institute’s second director, succeeding its founding director, Ted Brown. In 2003, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society. He has held fellowships from, among others, the Alfred P. Sloan and J.S. Guggenheim foundations. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Physical Society. He also has published more than 300 scientific articles.
Ana started her studies at the Navy Pier campus and then the UIC Circle campus where she was not only in the first graduating class, she was also named the salutatorian. She continued her studies in Urbana, earning a PhD in biochemistry from UIUC in 1970. Ana worked in the Departments of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Molecular and Cellular Biology and had an appointment in the College of Medicine at UIUC. Her academic career progressed from assistant professor to achieving the rank of full professor in 1985. She held NATO and Fogarty International Fellowships and an Established Investigatorship of the American Heart Association. In 1996, she received the Lyman Award of the American Heart Association for lifetime contributions to the research on lipoproteins and nanoparticles, publishing more than 120 articles in this field. She was a consultant, member, and chair of numerous scientific advisory boards for organizations including the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Journal of Lipid Research.
Both Jiri and Ana were highly sought after in their fields, but their loyalty to UIUC—and the community they came to love—kept them in the Champaign-Urbana area for decades. They both retired with emeritus status in 2001 and subsequently moved to Naples, Florida where they continue to live and enjoy staying active.
“Jiri and Ana were dedicated UI professors and researchers for decades,” said UIF President/CEO Jim Moore. “This amazing gift is a testament to their belief in the power of Illinois to transform lives and serve society through the students it educates. We are incredibly grateful they have chosen to support the university where they spent so much of their careers in such a special way.”