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What’s in a Name?

In 1968, the Pritzker family of Chicago — well-known philanthropists whose many business ventures include the Hyatt hotel chain — became the first family to have a medical school bear its name in recognition of a private donation when it gave $12 million to the University of Chicago School of Medicine. In June, the family — which built its fortune on the business ventures of Nicholas J. Pritzker, an immigrant from the Ukraine who arrived penniless in Chicago in 1881 — announced an additional gift of $30 million to be invested in the University of Chicago’s Biological Sciences Division and School of Medicine.

Though sizable by any standards, the Pritzkers’ donations, like most gifts that have followed them, pale in comparison to the one made in May by media mogul David Geffen to the UCLA School of Medicine. The largest single donation ever made to a U.S. medical school, Geffen’s unrestricted gift of $200 million has gone a long way toward securing the future of the newly named David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Gerald S. Levey, M.D., provost for medical sciences and dean of the UCLA medical school, calls the occasion of Geffen’s gift “probably the single greatest moment of my professional life.” Dr. Levey says that long before he approached Geffen — a principal partner in DreamWorks SKG, the multifaceted entertainment company Geffen co-founded with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg in 1994 — he had made it his personal mission to obtain a large endowment for the school.

“It was understood from the start that if we could secure the appropriate donation, a naming would go along with it,” explains Dr. Levey. “That decision was made several years ago; we just didn’t have a donor.”

With state support for UCLA’s medical school dwindling to 13 percent of its budget, Dr. Levey emphasizes the growing importance philanthropy plays in maintaining the school’s operation and growth. “Like all schools of medicine and all academic medical centers, we have an extraordinary need for philanthropy,” he says. “There is simply no other source of money.”

During his past eight years as dean, Dr. Levey says it has become clear to him that in addition to continually upgrading facilities, the UCLA medical school’s biggest need is the ability to recruit and retain key faculty, something the dean says can only be accomplished “with a good supply of unrestricted money.”

The maintenance of such faculty, says Dr. Levey, is essential to the school’s ability not only to stay on the cutting edge of research, but also to attract “the best” medical and graduate students. “We have a wonderful group of students, but we not infrequently lose students to larger private institutions that have greater discretionary money,” he says.

Why give?

Dr. Levey says that Geffen’s motivation for his landmark donation is to foster scientific progress by ensuring a steady supply of first-rate physicians.

“He felt that this would be an ideal way of helping Californians now and in the future,” Dr. Levey affirms. When his gift was made public, Geffen added that his second motivating factor was to inspire others with the means to do so to make similar donations. “I believe each of us has the ability to give back in some way,” said the entertainment mogul. “Los Angeles is my home, and I want to do my part in contributing to its future.”

That affection for the place where one made one’s fortune — motivators for both Geffen and the Pritzker family — is shared by other philanthropists. Robert A. Day, grandson of the late William Myron Keck, who founded the Superior Oil Company in Coalinga, Calif., in 1921 and saw his enterprise grow into one of the largest independent oil-producing companies of its time, says that investing in southern California is a large part of his grandfather’s legacy. In 1954, the successful oil baron established the W. M. Keck Foundation, which, with assets of more than $1.5 billion, has since grown into one of largest philanthropic organizations in the country.

In 1999, the Keck Foundation announced its gift of $110 million to the University of Southern California Medical School, the largest gift to date at that time to any medical school. The new Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California committed to raising an additional $330 million in matching funds.

Day explains that the Keck Foun- dation has always supported three principal areas: engineering, which takes the largest share of its philanthropic donations; medical research, which ranks second; and the development of southern California, which ranks third. But the foundation’s division of funds has shifted in recent years.

“With breakthroughs made in the medical arena, we’ve switched our emphasis and cut back a bit on the engineering side, upped the medical side, and left the southern California [development] side the same,” says Day. “We think that the major breakthroughs in productivity gains in this country in the 21st century will come in the medical arena, just as they came in the information technology arena in the last 25 years of the 20th century.”

Day says that USC’s decision to name its medical school in recognition of the Keck family — whose total donations to the university top $143 million — was a “logical” one, given the size of the gift. He emphasizes that the foundation continues to play a large role in the development of the Keck School of Medicine: “When we gave the donation, it was after exhaustive negotiations with the university to make sure that we had the proper controls and the appropriate partnership to ensure that the school really became a world-class institution over the next 10 to 20 years.”

With key leaders and members of the Keck Foundation on the medical school’s Board of Overseers, Day says, the Keck family has worked “very carefully” with the university that has benefited so much from its philanthropy. “This is very much a hands-on gift,” Day emphasizes. “We are working with them on it; it’s not just a matter of dropping the money in the coffer and walking away.”

Building a rural medical school

Large medical schools are not the only beneficiaries of philanthropic generosity. In 1999, the East Carolina University (ECU) Board of Trustees named its medical school in Greenville, N.C., the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University to recognize its largest gift ever from a family who has been instrumental in financing and developing the school since the 1960s. In that decade, three brothers — J. S. “Sammy,” Morris, and Leo Brody — met with individuals in eastern North Carolina who were working to establish a medical school in the rural region.

The Brodys, who headed a large department store enterprise and whose subsequent business ventures into soda bottling and television netted them a comfortable family fortune, had a vision to improve the health care of their neighbors by establishing a local, reputable medical school. They contributed $200,000 to support the school’s establishment and followed that up with a $1.5 million gift in 1979 to help build a permanent facility for the school of medicine. Additional funds for scholarships were subsequently donated to attract a quality student body.

David Brody, along with his brother Hyman, continued the philanthropic efforts of their uncles through the Brody Brothers Foundation. These donations largely took the form of funds for scholarships to attract high-achieving students to ECU’s School of Medicine. Over the years, $8.6 million in scholarship funds has produced 79 Brody Scholars and Fellows.

“Being in the area we live in, our family early on saw that the mission of the medical school was a worthy one,” explains David Brody. “We live in a fairly rural region that had limited access to medical care and to all the specialties that a medical school would bring. We bought into the vision of the school, and as our involvement with it grew, we also became emotionally invested in it.”

David, his uncle Leo, and his brother Hyman have all served considerable time on the boards of the Brody School of Medicine and Pitt County Memorial Hospital, the medical school’s affiliated teaching hospital. Other family members have served as volunteers and on other boards governing the growth and direction of the medical school and hospital.

David Brody says that much of his motivation to continue to support the school has been the payoff he’s witnessed in his community. “When we see these students we have given scholarships to return to their rural communities that they otherwise never may have come back to, it reaffirms our commitment to the school,” he explains.

“We’ve seen doctors return to communities like Elm City, with a population of 1,500 people. They tell us that if they had graduated with large debt burdens, they could not have afforded to practice where they do. These scholarships have provided primary care to rural communities that otherwise probably wouldn’t have had it, and it’s been very gratifying to see that,” David Brody affirms.

In 1999, a gift of $7 million from the Brody Brothers Foundation to fund research projects at the medical school for cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other prevalent health problems in eastern North Carolina was announced along with a $1 million gift from Morris and Elaine Brody to continue funding merit scholarships under the Brody Medical Scholars Program. This brought the family’s collective support of ECU’s 27-year-old medical school to more than $22 million, resulting in the decision to name the school in honor of the Brody family. “When we made this final gift, we knew it was something we could feel good about,” says David Brody. “We have seen the value of what we were doing all along.”

A growing trend?

In addition to Geffen’s UCLA gift, 2002 has seen three additional significant gifts to medical schools result in their naming.

In February, Northwestern University announced that in recognition of gifts totaling more than $103 million from the Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation, including a new gift of $75 million, it was naming its medical school the Feinberg School of Medicine.

In March, the University of Iowa College of Medicine similarly announced that in recognition of $90 million in total support for the college from the late Roy J. Carver, his widow, Lucille A. Carver, and the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust, including a new gift of $63 million, the school would be named the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Finally, in an unprecedented move, Cleveland Browns owner and MBNA chairman Al Lerner and his wife, Norma, donated $100 million toward the development of a medical college still in the making. The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University plans to enroll its first class of students in 2004.

And simply because a philanthropist has already aligned his or her name with a medical school does not imply that the well has run dry. Sanford I. Weill, chairman and chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc., and his wife, Joan, donated an additional $100 million to their namesake, the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College and Graduate School of Medical Sciences of Cornell University, early this year.

This latest gift, given to advance and support the college’s clinical mission, matches the $100 million the Weills gave to the college in 1998 to support its research efforts. The Weills began their support of Cornell, Sanford’s alma mater, with a $4 million donation in 1993 to fund the construction of the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Education Center, a state-of-the-art teaching facility for the university’s medical students.

Like many of his fellow philanthropists, Sanford Weill says his motivation to give is derived from pride in his hometown and his confidence in medical advancement.

“The world looks to New York as the leader on almost every front,” he explains. “As native New Yorkers, my wife Joan and I are grateful to have this opportunity to support the medical college and the city, and we know [our donation] will help New York City and Weill Cornell Medical College continue as leaders in science, research, education, and clinical care.”


$ University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine (1968)

$ Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University (1977)

$ Cornell University Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College and Graduate School of Medical Sciences (1998)

$ Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (1999)

$ The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University (1999)

$ Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (2002)

$ University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine (2002)

$ The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (2002)

$ The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University (2002) (to open in 2004)

Reprinted by permission, AAMC Reporter, August 2002, Copyright © 2002, Association of American Medical Colleges;

What’s in a Name?

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