It might come as a surprise that for a man who had spent so much time at Cleveland Clinic undergoing procedures and surgeries to help his ailing heart, Brad Shick wanted to return there after he passed away.

He’d talked about donating his body to medical science for years before his death. According to his daughter, Amy Tucker, Brad always was a willing participant in trials and studies. “Anything that might help Cleveland Clinic better care for their heart patients,” she says.

The opportunity to donate his body held a dual appeal for Brad. First, he wanted to reciprocate for the decades of heart care he’d received, and, second, he liked the idea of participating in this crucial education, joking that he was going to get his college degree from Cleveland Clinic after he passed away — not to study, of course, but to be studied.

Brad’s health issues had begun early — he was just 38 when he underwent his first open-heart surgery — and no one expected him to live beyond 50. Over the years, he had two more bypass surgeries. He acquired a stent (at the time one of the largest stents ever placed by Cleveland Clinic), pacemaker and defibrillator. Later he battled congestive heart failure.

In 2012, Brad developed a serious blood infection that worsened his heart failure, and he passed away on Jan. 22, 2013.

“He honestly never thought he was going to die,” says Amy, “but always said that ‘if he did,’ he would go back to Cleveland Clinic so they could benefit from him just as he did from their care and expertise.”

At the Body Donation Program’s Memorial Service, held every spring, a Cleveland Clinic resident spoke about her experience working in the anatomy lab. She shared how every person is referred to by their name throughout the entire time. No one is just a body. They are always the people whose incredible generosity helps make medical education possible.

Brad’s gift touched the lives of his family members as well. “It’s definitely led me to consider doing the same thing, to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” says Amy.

And no one could argue that Brad’s gift also earned him that college degree he talked about.