Longtime Flinn Foundation board member
Dr. Merlin Kampfer passes away

May 2, 2017

By Matt Ellsworth

Dr. Merlin Kampfer, who served on the Flinn Foundation board of directors for 26 years and was the personal physician for Irene Flinn, passed away April 18 at his home in Santa Fe, N.M.

Dr. Kampfer joined the Flinn board in 1976 and served until 2002, including a stint as board chair from 1998 through his retirement four years later. Dr. Kampfer practiced as an internist for more than 40 years, served in leading roles at Phoenix hospitals, and was generous with his time and medical expertise for organizations such as St. Vincent de Paul and Kiwanis.

After graduating from Ohio State University and Ohio State University College of Medicine, Dr. Kampfer served his residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. He later opened his private practice and became chief medical officer for both St. Joseph’s Hospital and St. Luke’s Medical Center. He also served as a U.S. Air Force military doctor for three years. After retiring from his private practice, Dr. Kampfer worked in hospice and palliative care in Phoenix and Santa Fe.

Dr. Kampfer’s time as board chair occurred between the terms of Dr. Donald Buffmire and Dr. David Gullen, who serves as board chair today. As is the custom with the Flinn Foundation, Dr. Kampfer served as an honorary board member after his retirement from the board.

While Dr. Kampfer served as chair, the Flinn Foundation moved into its Central Avenue building that includes staff offices and a conference center. It was also during this time that the Foundation narrowed its health care focus to the biosciences, was involved with the formation of Translational Genomics Research Institute in downtown Phoenix, and prepared for the launch of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap in late 2002.

In a 2015 interview with the Flinn Foundation to recognize its 50th anniversary, Dr. Kampfer praised the generosity and politeness of Dr. Robert and Mrs. Irene Flinn, as well as their foresight for the foundation.

“They saw the investment in people as the most valuable thing to do because that would grow with you,” Dr. Kampfer said.

As Mrs. Flinn’s personal physician, Dr. Kampfer would go to the Flinn home to treat her as she did not like to go to his office. He said house calls were common at the time and he was happy to treat her there. Dr. Kampfer said at one time Mrs. Flinn wanted to buy him a horse, but he declined as he didn’t think it was proper because she was a patient.

The Flinn Foundation’s nine-member board of directors meets quarterly to award grants in the biosciences, arts and culture, and to support the Flinn Scholars Program; develop the foundation’s programs and areas of focus; approve the annual budget; and other responsibilities involved in stewarding the Foundation.