Developer gives $45M for heart center

Medical ResearchHealthHuman InterestQualcomm Inc.South Bend (St. Joseph, Indiana)Andrew CarnegieBurnham Institute

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Scripps Health announced Wednesday a $45 million donation from area developer and philanthropist Conrad Prebys to fund construction of its cardiovascular center at the Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla campus.

The donation is the largest ever given to Scripps and the biggest by Prebys.

The seven-story center, on which construction began last month, will be named the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute.

Prebys said he was bedridden for one year in his youth because of a heart infection caused by stepping on a rusty belt buckle.

"That experience from my childhood never left me,'' Prebys said. "Now here I am, part of what will be the best heart care center there is, with the greats of the medical world, research and innovation that will help mankind.''

 Scripps Health considers the $456 million institute, which will integrate cardiovascular programs throughout the organization, to be the cornerstone of a 25-year plan to redevelop its La Jolla location. Patients of Kaiser Permanente will also use the facility.

The 383,000-square-foot institute -- with 108 inpatient beds in private rooms, 60 intensive care beds, six operating rooms and up to six cardiac catheterization labs -- is expected to open in four years.

Prebys in March gave $15 million to the San Diego Zoo for a new koala exhibit and upgrades to other areas of the park, this on top of the $10 million he already donated to the zoo back in 2007. He has also provided gifts of $10 million or more to The Old Globe, Scripps Mercy Hospital and the Sanford- Burnham Institute for Medical Research.

In total, Prebys has donated approximately $115 million over the past six years alone.

"I've embraced Andrew Carnegie's philosophy that excess wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community,'' Prebys said.

After growing up in a working-class neighborhood in South Bend, Ind., the Prebys moved to San Diego and converted $500 into a thriving real estate and construction business, Progress Construction and Management Co., which the Point Loma resident founded in 1966.

Prebys' net worth was estimated to be around $300 million back in 2006 by the San Diego Business Journal.

Among the larger donations in recent years in San Diego are:

-- Ernest Rady, who built a fortune in automobile financing, gave $60 million in 2006 to Children's Hospital, which now carries his last name;

-- Rady previously gave $30 million to the UC San Diego School of Management;

-- Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan, gave $20 million to the first phase of construction to the new Central Library.

Fundraisers for the new library expect another $20 million donation will be made for the second phase of building, but the prospective donor has not been identified.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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