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Keck School lauds donors whose gifts ‘changed campus forever’

Front row, from left: Jim Lower, Selim Zilkha, Robert Day, Harlyne Norris, David Lee; back row, from left: William Watson, Brian Henderson, Stephen J. Ryan, Peter Jones and Zach Hall are flanked by portraits that honor the Keck School of Medicine’s top supporters.

Lee Salem Photography, Inc.

Artist Juan Bastos with his portraits of Day, Norris and Zilkha.

Lee Salem Photography, Inc.

The Keck School of Medicine honored W. M. Keck Foundation Chair-man and President Robert Day along with other top supporters at a dinner held in the Keith Administration lobby on Sunday, May 16.

Portraits were unveiled of Day and donors Harlyne Norris and Selim Zilkha, which are now permanently displayed in the Keith lobby.

Ryan also presented gifts of traditional academic hardwood chairs to the three as well as to David Lee, chair of the Keck School Board of Overseers, and Jim Lower, Keck School Overseer.

At the dinner, Dean Stephen J. Ryan thanked Day, Norris and Zilkha for gifts “that have changed the campus and Keck School of Medicine forever.”

Ryan commented that the portraits, painted by artist Juan Bastos, create a sense of the history of the Health Sciences Campus. “Great medical schools such as the leading schools on the east coast have these ‘halls of fame,’ places that display portraits of people who have done great things for that school,” said Ryan.

“In a very real way, Robert Day is the reason that we are all here today,” said Ryan. “There would not be a Keck School of Medicine without Robert. At the end of the last century, Robert recognized the potential of our school and made an unprecedented gift and pledge of his support. In this century, he has remained an enduring, stalwart advocate for the school.”

“Words are inadequate to describe all that he has done for us in the Keck School of Medicine,” added Ryan. “I won’t recite his extensive bio and all he has accomplished in the worlds of business and politics. I will tell you, however, that he is one of the most generous people anywhere, and a leading philanthropist. He provides inspired leadership for the W. M. Keck Foundation. The Keck Foundation is the most efficient and effective organization that I know, and a model in allocation of its resources with the most minimal administrative costs. Robert has always been clear about his desire to do something great for Los Angeles.

“The Keck gift launched our ambitious plans and dreams and propelled the Keck School of Medicine into the top echelon of our nation’s medical schools.

“In good times and bad, Robert Day has repeatedly demonstrated his unwavering commitment, and for that I thank him on behalf of our entire faculty, student body, staff and the leadership of the school.”

Ryan also recounted the contributions of Harlyne Norris and the Norris family and foundation.

Through its foundation, the Norris family has given more than $40 million to USC, naming the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Eileen L. Norris Cinema Theater, the Norris Dental Center, the Norris Medical Library and the Norris Auditorium, which is on the University Park Campus.

Harlyne Norris has served on the Norris Cancer Hospital Board, is a dedicated member of the USC Board of Trustees and has been called the “heart and spirit” behind the new Harlyne J. Norris Cancer Research Tower, which is now under construction.

The Norris Foundation provided a $15-million lead gift for the tower.

Ryan also lauded Zilkha as a crucial benefactor and “a truly outstanding man.”

“I feel privileged to call Selim Zilkha my friend,” Ryan said. “He has had so many lives in industry and has reinvented himself many times from banking to services for pregnant women through MotherCare, to the oil business and renewable energy, and more recently, developing successful vineyards with his daughter, Nadia. Selim made the neurogenetic institute possible, a place where researchers can address the devastating diseases of the brain, which have such a measurable impact upon the health of our aging population.”

Others attending the event from the Keck School included Brian Henderson, incoming dean and director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, Peter Jones, director of the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Zach Hall, executive vice dean and senior associate dean for research.

Ryan praised them for their leadership of the school.

“People make us who we are,” said Ryan, “We are most fortunate that three of our greatest faculty leaders and scientists are with us tonight. The leadership of Brian Henderson has been outstanding, as a great founding director of the Zilkha Institute and previously as director of the Norris Cancer Center. He will be a great dean. Zach Hall has done an outstanding job in leading the Keck School’s research efforts and also carrying a huge administrative load since October, serving as executive vice dean.

“We will always be indebted to Zach for joining us. His commitment to high quality is legendary at UC San Francisco and at the NIH, where he held major leadership roles. He is building a true community of scholars and scientists here. Together, Brian and Zach are in the midst of exciting recruitments for the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute,” Ryan said.

He added: “Peter Jones has also done a spectacular job in recruitment and leadership from the time he succeeded Brian Henderson to become director of Norris, providing visionary leadership for the Cancer Center.”

In remarks at the end of the evening, Day indicated how proud he was to have become a part of the medical school, the privilege of working with Ryan and how he still believes firmly in the future of the Keck School of Medicine.

Earlier in the day, at the Keck School commencement exercises, Ryan presented Day with the Hoffman Award, honoring the individual who has made the greatest contributions to the Keck School of Medicine and its people.

“Without doubt,” said Ryan, “Robert Day is that person.”

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