Brigham and Women’s Hospital Lands $100 Million for New Immunology and Inflammation Center
Biolegend founder Gene Lay is giving Brigham and Women’s Hospital $100 million from through his Laygend Foundation to establish the Gene Lay Institute of Immunology and Inflammation of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, where Immunology and biomedical experts from the three organizations will work together to translate research discoveries into therapies for immune-mediated diseases rooted in chronic inflammation.
Plus, race car driver and healthcare finance expert Ted Giovanis gave Johns Hopkins Medicine $35 million, and Dallas oil mogul Kelcy Warren gave his alma mater, University of Texas at Arlington, $12 million.
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A roundup of notable gifts compiled by the Chronicle:
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Gene Lay gave $100 million through his Laygend Foundation to establish the Gene Lay Institute of Immunology and Inflammation of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, where immunology and biomedical experts from the three institutions will work together to translate research discoveries into therapies for immune-mediated diseases rooted in chronic inflammation.
Lay founded BioLegend in 2002. The San Diego biotechnology company develops and produces antibodies, proteins, and testing for cellular immunity, inflammation, cancer, stem cells, and other reagents required for research and diagnosis. The company was acquired by PerkinElmer in 2021 for approximately $5.25 billion. In 1987, Lay co-founded PharMingen, a biomedical company that was acquired by Becton, Dickinson and Company in 1997.
Lay was born in Taiwan and earned his doctor of veterinary medicine at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology in Taiwan. He emigrated to the United States in the 1980s and earned a master’s degree in microbiology and immunology from the University of Louisiana.
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Theodore Giovanis pledged $35 million to create the Giovanis Institute for Translational Cell Biology, where researchers will study metastasis, or how cancer spreads through the body, and focus on discovering the common features of metastasis across cancer types and developing new therapies. The pledge will be paid over the next 15 years.
Giovanis, a professional sports-car driver and owner of Team TGM in the International Motor Sports Association, is also an expert on hospital-system finance and Medicare and Medicaid regulation and regulatory processes. He founded and led T. Giovanis & Company, a health care finance and regulatory consultancy, and the Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy, a nonprofit that conducts research in health care-related policy.
University of Houston
Andy and Barbara Gessner gave $20 million to bolster the nursing workforce amid a significant labor shortage in the profession. The gift will back scholarships, graduate fellowships, three professorships, research, and other programs in the newly named Andy and Barbara Gessner College of Nursing.
Andy Gessner worked at Industrial Air Tool, an oil-industry supply company, for four decades and eventually became co-owner and president. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Houston in 1968.
The Gessners’ late mothers, Gertrude Smith Gessner and Mildred Roberson Pottenger, were nurses. Pottenger, Barbara Gessner’s mother, served as a nurse in WWII where, among other responsibilities, she flew with wounded soldiers from the battlefield to the hospital.
“The silver tsunami is coming,” Barbara Gessner said in a news release. “We are certainly going to need more nurses as the population gets older, so the medical profession will be put to the test. It’s always been an honorable profession, and we believe in that tender, compassionate care that nurses provide.”
University of South Alabama
Abraham (Abe) Mitchell gave $20 million to build a new performing-arts center, bringing the longtime donor’s total giving to the university to $120 million. Mitchell, who co-founded the Mitchell Company, a Mobile, Ala., real-estate development company, did not attend the university.
He came to know the university and its students through a friendship with the late Gordon Moulton, who served as president of the institution from 1998 to 2013. He appeared on the Chronicle’s annual Philanthropy 50 list of the biggest donors for a large gift he gave the university in 2013 to back scholarships and the business school.
University of Jamestown
Candy and James Unruh gave $15 million to establish the School of Character in Leadership, support the renovation of the Voorhees Chapel, and add a new building onto the chapel that will become the university’s Center for Faith and Life.
James Unruh founded and is managing principal of Alerion Capital Group, a private-equity and management advisory firm in Scottsdale, Ariz. Prior to founding Alerion, he served as chairman and CEO of the information-technology services giant Unisys Corporation from 1990 to 1997.
University of Texas at Arlington
Oil mogul Kelcy Warren gave $12 million to support a number of programs in the College of Engineering’s new Resource and Energy Engineering bachelor’s degree program. The money will create an endowed professorship and two faculty fellowships, pay for new laboratory space and equipment, establish the Kelcy Warren Career Experience Center, and support scholarships, student fellowships, and undergraduate research programs.
Warren, whose net worth is estimated at $4.8 billion, is executive chairman and chairman of the Board of Directors of Energy Transfer Partners, a natural gas and propane pipeline transport company in Dallas. He started his career in the oil and gas industry cleaning warehouses at Sun Oil, where his father worked as a supply clerk. He later worked for the Lone Star Gas Company and for Endevco, and served in leadership positions at Cornerstone Natural Gas, which he led as president and CEO from 1993 to 1996. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the university in 1978 and was appointed to a six-year term on the UT System Board of Regents in 2019.
To learn about other big donations, see our database of gifts of $1 million or more, which is updated regularly.