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Karl H. Hagen Professorship in Ophthalmology

HagenKarlKARL H. HAGEN, who developed age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in 1993, was a philanthropist and pioneer who did not allow his vision impairment to keep him from endowing one of the nation’s first professorships in the field of macular degeneration. He made generous contributions in the form of planned gifts, including a 30-acre parcel of land in Suitland, Maryland, where he grew up, to underwrite research efforts that might help others suffering from the same retinal disease. His giving may be quantifiable but his impact remains immeasurable.

Mr. Hagen, a man who came from a background of few material advantages, lived life to the fullest, spending his time enjoying art, music, dancing, travel, and hard work. A self-taught artist and musician, Mr. Hagen had a lifelong interest in watercolor painting and spent many years playing the saxophone with dance bands while employed for nearly four decades as a foreman of the sign-painting department at the Potomac Electric Power Company.

Mr. Hagen spent the last nine months of his life at the Sunrise assisted-living facility in Falls Church, Virginia, where caretakers said he was “a friend to everyone.” He would regale his friends with stories of his exotic travels, from a three-month cross-country trip in his Model A Ford during the Depression to his adventures in Japan, New Zealand, Bora Bora and other far-off places. His caretakers said, “He was a very special man to everyone here,” noting how he shared with others the magnifying screen that Wilmer physicians had given him for his AMD.

Before his passing in 1999, Mr. Hagen expressed the hope that his gifts would hasten the development of treatments for those who suffer from macular degeneration, thereby sparing others the emotional pain he experienced. The Wilmer Eye Institute is forever grateful to Mr. Hagen because his generosity substantially advances our ability to combat this major cause of blindness.