Former CItigroup CEO Sanford "Sandy" Weill already has one major medical school to his name: Weill Cornell Medical College. Nonetheless, he and his wife Joan Weill have turned their philanthropic eye westward, donating $185 million to UCSF for a new neuroscience research center, the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. The New York Times places the donation as the largest in UCSF's history. It's also among the most sizable contributions the Weills have ever made.
“Research on the brain, which is the most complex part of the human body, is far behind” Weill told the Times from his Sonoma estate, where he and his wife produce wine under the label Weill a Way. “We’ve always liked to support the underdog," Weill, whose net worth Forbes puts at $1.06 billion, said. The 83-year-old has taken Bill Gates' and Warren Buffet's Giving Pledge to pledge or donate most of his net worth before he dies.
And the gift comes shortly after a promised $20 million gift from the Weills to Paul Smith College in upstate New York had to be rescinded late last year, after the college's board rejected a proposal by the Weills to add Joan Weill's name to the college itself, making it Joan Weill-Paul Smith College though the small college's campus already has a couple of buildings with the Weills's name on them.
UCSF's neuroscience research centers are already some of the best in the US, and while only three percent of UCSF's funding comes from the state — the rest comes from grants and contributions — the institution doesn't lack for funding. Just last year, the school received a $177 million donation from Charles Feeney for the Global Brain Health Institute. Neuroscience appears to be of particular interest to donors recently: The Chronicle writes that the school has received contributions of $500 million in the past year for brain research.
The $185 million Weill contribution won't do it all, of course. Much of it will go toward a new 270,000-square-foot building in Mission Bay, on which ground may break as soon as 2017. That building will cost $316 million.
“We have a chance here to break down the silos between all the different departments and really look holistically at the brain," Weill said according to the Chronicle. "Our gift unites psychiatry with all the other neurosciences departments.”
Speaking of unity, expect an annual conference between the Weill Cornell Medical College and the UCSF Weill Institute for Neuroscience.