$33 million Lokey donation will help fund stem cell building
BY RUTHANN RICHTER
Lorry I. Lokey, the founder of Business Wire and a passionate supporter of education and science, will give a minimum of $33 million to help build a home for Stanford's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.
Lokey, who has given away much of his fortune to educational institutions, said he turned his attention to stem cells in 2001, after the Bush administration limited federal funding for stem cell research, discouraging the study of these potentially powerful cells.
"The important thing to me is that stem cells might not only extend life, but also improve the quality of life, as so many people suffer in their later years," said Lokey, who will turn 80 in March. "But I think stem cells will have applications across the entire life span."
Lokey's contribution to the School of Medicine—its largest single gift to date from an individual—will launch construction of new stem cell laboratories on campus where scientists will probe the power of these elusive cells in treating conditions as diverse as cancer, stroke and diabetes.
Lokey hopes the gift will be more than $33 million; the funds are in an account that is expected to grow in value before construction begins.
The anticipated schedule for the building calls for groundbreaking in 2009, with completion in 2011. The building, to be located between Campus Drive and the Center for Clinical Sciences Research, will be the first in a series of structures that will house the Stanford Institutes of Medicine.
"Lorry Lokey is a remarkably brilliant and committed individual. He has become a passionate and highly informed advocate for stem cell research, and is excited by the extraordinary work that is proceeding at Stanford under the banner of our Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine," said Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the School of Medicine.
"Because of his wonderful gift, we will be able to proceed with planning the space and facilities to house superb faculty and foster the process of basic discovery that ultimately leads to the translation of this knowledge to improve the lives of patients suffering from cancer, neurodegenerative processes, heart failure, immune dysfunction and others," Pizzo said. "This is an extraordinarily exciting time in science and medicine, and I am deeply appreciative to Lorry Lokey for his confidence in us and his support for Stanford."
Lokey, a native of Portland, Ore., graduated from Stanford in 1949 with a degree in journalism and credits the university with jumpstarting his career. "It was there that I discovered what I wanted to do," he said. "After three days on campus, I saw this (Stanford) Daily ad looking for reporters. I applied and got my first job as a cub reporter."
He became editor of the Stanford Daily and after graduation went to work at United Press (which later became United Press International), one of the country's major wire services. After a series of jobs in newspapers and public relations, he got the idea for starting a new kind of wire service where, instead of going out and getting the news, the news would come to him.
He launched Business Wire in San Francisco in 1961 with $2,000 of his own money. It quickly grew to become a news industry powerhouse, now distributing an average of 17,000 corporate and academic press releases a month. When Lokey sold the business last year to Berkshire Hathaway, the company controlled by investor Warren Buffett, it was valued at roughly $500 million, he said.
Lokey said he's been enjoying giving away his fortune. In recent years, he's donated about $300 million to various educational institutions, including Stanford, the University of Oregon, Mills College in Oakland, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Israel and his elementary school in Oregon. He oversees his foundation grants under the administration of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund in San Francisco.
"I did not want to go through life without this money being put to work and to be able to enjoy the fruits of its applications. I began to think, what made me come out well in business," he said. "In every question I asked myself, the answer was education."
Lokey previously has made significant gifts to multiple projects at Stanford, including $20 million to help build the new Lorry I. Lokey Laboratory Building, which opened in 2004 and houses research labs for the departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences. Lokey said every time he passes the building off Campus Drive, he glows.
"The giving process is such a satisfactory procedure," he said. "It's an absolute thrill to see what happens when you give $1 million or $10 million or $30 million."
He's recently made significant investments in science and biotechnology, believing they may offer the tools to put an end to major human ailments, such as heart disease and cancer.
"The biotech revolution has become so important to the quality of life," he said. "To me, the biotech field is going to be very, very hot for the next generation."
Lokey still works as the "elder statesman" at Business Wire, commuting to work three days a week from his home in Atherton. But in March he's planning to cut back his time at the company to devote more time to the business of philanthropy, which he said helps keep him young.
"Why give in the first place? Why not buy a plane or a yacht? It's not my style," he said. "Mind you, I live well ... but there is still money left over. Fortune has been good to me and, in passing it on, others might enjoy the same good fortune."