Entertainment industry mogul David Geffen will donate $200 million to UCLA’s medical school, the largest single gift ever to a U.S. medical school or to the University of California.
The gift, to be announced today, is a huge coup for UCLA, not only because of its size but also because it is unrestricted. Geffen is giving the medical school a free hand in deciding how to use the money, an unusual step for a major donor.
“This is a university’s dream kind of gift,” UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale said.
“Mr. Geffen has not asked for a specific building, or a specific program, or a specific professorship, or the development of a specific clinical procedure, or for the treatment of a specific disease. What he’s done is to ensure that the people best able to make those decisions in the future are in the position to make those decisions.”
Still, Geffen, 59, co-founder of the entertainment company DreamWorks SKG, will have his name emblazoned on the prestigious 50-year-old medical school, which will be known as the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
The entertainment executive, who holds no university degree, declined to be interviewed Monday.
In a statement prepared for release today, however, Geffen said the purpose of his donation is “to support one of the most innovative medical schools in the world,” and “to inspire others to do the same.”
“Los Angeles is my home, and I want to do my part in contributing to its future,” said Geffen, whose net worth has been estimated at $3.9 billion.
“I have great respect and affection for UCLA, and my hope is that with this gift, UCLA’s doctors and researchers will be better equipped to unravel medicine’s mysteries--and deliver the cures for tomorrow.”
Andy Spahn, a spokesman for Geffen and president of his personal foundation, said the gift--though vastly larger than any previous Geffen donation--will continue his pattern of donations to medical-related causes. These include gifts of $2.5 million to AIDS Project Los Angeles, $2.5 million to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York and $1.4 million to AIDS Action in Washington.
The $200 million is not Geffen’s first gift to UCLA. . He is the name benefactor of the Geffen Playhouse at UCLA, which is across the street from UCLA’s medical school and medical center.
Geffen has other ties to the University of California as well: He was appointed to the UC Board of Regents in 1980 by then-Gov. Jerry Brown and served for seven years.
Geffen’s new gift will dramatically expand the UCLA medical school’s endowment, which amounted to $587 million as of last June.
But the vast majority of the other funds are targeted for specific projects, which is one of the main reasons that UCLA, like other medical schools, struggles during economic downturns.
The money drawn annually from the Geffen donation will go to general purposes including student financial aid and training medical scientists.
It also will help expand research into such areas as genetics and vaccines, said Gerald S. Levey, dean of the UCLA medical school and UCLA’s provost for medical sciences.
Unrestricted funds, he said, “are one of the things that made Harvard, for example, the great school that it is. One of my goals has always been to have an unrestricted endowment, and now we have it.”
Geffen’s gift pushes forward what has been an already successful multiyear fund-raising drive by UCLA. That campaign, launched in May 1997, initially was intended to raise $1.2 billion by the end of this year, but pledges already have surpassed $1.7 billion, and UCLA’s latest goal is to garner commitments for $2.4 billion by the end of 2005.
The Geffen donation eclipses the $150-million pledge to UCLA for its new medical center and research facilities, which was facilitated two years ago by Michael Ovitz on behalf of friends of former President Reagan. Ovitz himself donated $25 million.
In an era where major donations often involve long courtships and complicated negotiations, UCLA officials said their dealings with Geffen were remarkable for their simplicity.
UCLA approached Geffen two or three years ago about donating to the medical school, but the idea was put on a back burner. Then, in April, Geffen contacted UCLA and met with Levey to express his interest.
“There were not very many discussions,” Carnesale said. “This was basically a decision that Mr. Geffen made, and then it was a matter of filling in the details. It was almost just a matter of him informing us of his interest in supporting the medical school, and our responding with great enthusiasm.”
In Hollywood, Geffen is a major power broker, widely respected and feared for his quick temper, keen eye for talent and love-hate business relationships. His career began at age 20 as a mail room worker at the William Morris Agency in Manhattan. He later acknowledged he had faked a UCLA degree in theater arts on his resume to land the job.
From there, he earned a fortune and fearsome reputation in the record and movie industries. During the 1980s he ran Geffen Records, which assembled a talent roster including John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Elton John, Donna Summer, Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, Don Henley, Cher and Peter Gabriel.
Geffen’s movie label, Geffen Pictures, produced a string of features including “Personal Best,” “Beetlejuice,” “Interview with the Vampire,” “Risky Business” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” He also had a Broadway theater company responsible for many Broadway musicals, including “Cats,” “Dreamgirls,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Miss Saigon” and the play “M. Butterfly.”
These days, he helps run DreamWorks SKG, which he formed in 1994 with fellow Hollywood powerhouses Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg.
According to the 2000 biography “The Operator,” by journalist Tom King, his feuds with other entertainment executives, including former Disney executive Ovitz, are legendary. Equally notable are his long-standing friendships and loyal partnerships, as well as his philanthropy.
Before he created DreamWorks, Geffen devoted 100% of the profit from his movies and Broadway shows to charitable purposes. Since then, he has given more than $50million to charity.
But Geffen’s largest individual charitable gifts until now amounted to two $5-million donations to the arts. One went to the 498-seat theater now known as the Geffen Playhouse. The other went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles’ warehouse-like facility in Little Tokyo, now called the Geffen Contemporary.
The new Geffen donation nearly doubles the largest previous cash donations earmarked for a university medical school. The previous record was the $110-million gift to USC’s medical school by the W.M. Keck Foundation in 1999.
Still, the Geffen donation barely cracks the top dozen among all categories of gifts to American colleges or universities. The nation’s leader on that score is Caltech, which last year received a combined $600 million from Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty Moore, along with their Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. That same year, the Hewlett foundation gave $400 million to Stanford University.
According to UCLA officials, the largest gift given to the University of California previously was a donation of $101.3 million to UC San Francisco by the Catellus Development Corp. in 1999.
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Biography: David Geffen
Age 59, born in Brooklyn, N.Y..
Breakthrough in entertainment industry came in 1971 with the founding of Asylum records. Left the recording-industry in 1974 to become vice chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures.
Formed Geffen Records, in 1980, which was subsequently sold to MCA Inc. Also formed Geffen Pictures, which was responsible for residentresidentInterview with the Vampire,earsears residentresidentBeetlejuiceearsears and residentresidentRisky Business.earsears
Co-founded DreamWorks SKG in 1994 with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg. Geffen helped to establish DreamWorks Records, the label for the soundtracks to residentresidentAlmost Famous,earsears residentresidentAmerican Beauty,earsears residentresidentSaving Private Ryanearsears and residentresidentShrek.earsears
Donated $5 million to UCLA for its theater, renamed the Geffen Playhouse. Also donated $5 million to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
Has donated to AIDS causes, including AIDS Project Los Angeles, Gay Menearss Health Crisis and Godearss Love We Deliver.
Source: Times archives
Compiled by MALOY MOORE and CHARLES ORNSTEIN / Los Angeles Times
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Top 10 Private Donations Made to U.S. Universities and Colleges since 1967
1. California Institute of Technology. 2001. Two gifts, one from Gordon and Betty Moore and the other from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, totaling $600 million.
2. Stanford University. 2001. William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, $400 million.
3. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 2001. Anonymous donor, $360 million.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 2000. Patrick J. and Lore Harp McGovern, $350 million.
5. University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. 2002. Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, $300 million.
6. Vanderbilt University. 1998. Ingram Charitable Fund, $300 million.
7. Emory University. 1996. Lettie Pate Evans, Joseph B. Whitehead, and Robert W. Woodruff foundations, $295 million.
8. New York University. 1994. Sir Harold Acton, at least $250 million.
9. University of Colorado system. 2001. William T. Coleman III and Claudia Coleman, $250 million.
10. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. 1997. F. W. Olin Foundation, at least $200 million.
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Top 5 Donations to U.S. Medical Schools
1. University of Southern California, School of Medicine. 1999. W. M. Keck Foundation, $110 million.
2. Cornell University Medical College. 2002. Sanford I. and Joan Weill, $100 million.
3. Cornell University Medical College. 1998. Sanford I. and Joan Weill, $100 million.
4. Northwestern University Medical School. 2002. Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation, $75 million.
5. Mount Sinai School of Medicine. 1999. Frederick and Sharon Klingenstein Fund, $75 million. * Sources: Chronicle of Higher Education and Times archives. * Compiled by MALOY MOORE / Los Angeles Times