Ted Stanley dies at 85; donated $1.2 billion to scientific research


NEW CANAAN, Conn. — Businessman and philanthropist Ted Stanley, one of the nation’s largest private donors for scientific research, has died, his son said Monday. He was 85.

Stanley died at his home in New Canaan, son Jonathan Stanley said. No cause of death was provided.

Ted Stanley made a fortune selling collectibles, beginning with a series of medals commemorating the moon landing in 1969. His Norwalk, Conn.-based company, MBI, specializes in marketing consumer products.


Stanley donated more than $1.2 billion for research on bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental illnesses over two decades. He and his late wife, Vada Stanley, embraced the cause after Jonathan was diagnosed with a mental illness in 1988.

In a 2014 interview with National Public Radio, Stanley said the successful treatment of his son’s illness inspired him to do more for others who suffer. Jonathan was treated with lithium and responded well.

“There was something out there that our son could take and it made the problem go away,” Ted Stanley said. “And I’d like to see that happen for a lot of other people.”

In 2014, Stanley committed $650 million to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a biomedical research center in Cambridge, Mass., for the study of psychiatric disorders. Named for Los Angeles-area philanthropists Edythe and Eli Broad, who founded it in 2004, the Broad Institute is devoted to biomedical research across disciplines and institutions.

The gift was called the biggest ever for psychiatric research, and prompted the Chronicle of Philanthropy to name Stanley the country’s third-largest giver last year on a list headed by Bill and Melinda Gates.

Previously, the Stanleys had created the Maryland-based Stanley Medical Research Institute (SMRI) and donated nearly $600 million to the organization over more than a quarter of a century.


The two research organizations focus on different ideas about the possible causes of mental illness: The Broad Institute’s emphasis is genetic research, and SMRI’s focus has been infectious agents.

E. Fuller Torrey, associate director of research at SMRI, called Stanley “an extraordinary man” who flew coach to have extra money to give to science, “when he could have bought the plane.”