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University of Utah announces ‘landmark’ $110 million gift from Eccles Foundations for School of Medicine

Full video of historic announcement now posted online.

The University of Utah today announced a landmark gift of $110 million for its School of Medicine from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation.

The gift will further accelerate the nationally recognized school’s ability to provide the highest quality medical education, advanced research, and patient care, dramatically increasing the school’s endowment and powering critical research. It will also enable the construction of a state-of-the-art new home for the School of Medicine on the health sciences campus.

President Emerita Ruth V. Watkins, Ph.D., and Interim President Michael Good, M.D., announced that the university will rename the school the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah. The naming acknowledges not only this gift, but the lifetime of leadership, vision, and advocacy of Mr. Eccles, chairman and CEO of the two foundations awarding the grant.

“Through leadership spanning more than five decades, the Eccles family has shaped the University of Utah with remarkable breadth and depth—especially within the health sciences,” Dr. Watkins said. “In particular, Spence has been a leading champion. He has passionately built upon his family’s legacy to advance the University of Utah School of Medicine into a top-tier integrated academic medical institution. Today, he and his family foundations make their boldest and most forward-looking investment for the health of all Utahns. For these reasons and more, we are honored to have the School of Medicine bear his name.”

“This gift sets the course for the future of the School of Medicine,” Dr. Good added. “Medical education has advanced significantly in recent decades as new discoveries and technologies emerge. At the same time, the state of Utah is experiencing a need for more physicians, particularly in rural areas. This gift presents a unique opportunity: we will provide the most advanced education to raise new generations of health care professionals who will, in turn, improve health for our state and region. Our newly named school will join the ranks of the nation’s preeminent named institutions. We will not just adapt to the future of medicine—we will define it.”

The timing of the gift also holds special meaning for the School of Medicine and Mr. Eccles. Fifty years ago, a building named for his father opened its doors. The Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library was the first significant capital project at the university to be funded by the Eccles family. Since then, the younger Mr. Eccles has dramatically expanded his family’s vision. The Eccles family and associated charitable foundations have supported the School of Medicine and health sciences in areas spanning cardiovascular and genetics research, nursing, ophthalmology, orthopedics, pharmacology, critical care, and more.

“I have long believed that no state or region can become truly great without a world-class medical center at its nucleus,” Mr. Eccles said. “We hope this seminal grant—the largest ever awarded by our foundations—will help ensure the university not only provides the highest quality medical education for the doctors who serve Utah and the entire Intermountain West, but also furthers the excellence of health care for all our citizens and impacts the future of medicine through its groundbreaking research.”

The University of Utah has long been a special place for Mr. Eccles. An Ogden, Utah native, he arrived on campus in the early 1950s and quickly adapted to campus life. His success as a four-year letterman and All American on the U’s ski team and his active participation in the Beta Theta Pi fraternity set an early precedent for his later renown as a Utah Man. It was also at the U where he met Cleone Peterson of Fairview, Utah, who would become his wife of more than 54 years before her passing in 2013. Sharing Cleone’s unwavering spirit of community and generosity and valuing her rural Utah roots, these tenets have become the cornerstones of Mr. Eccles’ philanthropy.

Hailing from a long tradition of generosity, he once wrote, “I was fortunate to be born into a family that believes in the importance of giving back and doing our best to leave things better than we found them. I was also taught that we can make an even greater impact by joining together with others.”

For nearly two decades, Mr. Eccles led the Eccles family’s banking empire at First Security Bank until its historic merger with Wells Fargo in 2000. Throughout his career, Mr. Eccles and his businesses have become recognized for focusing on going above and beyond in delivering exceptional quality and service.

“Since ‘Giving 110%’ has been a legacy theme during my leadership of First Security Bank, this $110 million grant takes on special meaning for all of us,” Mr. Eccles said. “It’s an investment in the future of our fellow citizens—particularly in the medical students today and those to follow—who will have opportunities to practice medicine in innovative ways never before imagined, committing themselves ‘110%’ to improving and saving lives!”

Dr. Good praised that philanthropic spirit. “The University of Utah—and the School of Medicine in particular—would not be the institution it is today without the visionary support of the Eccles foundations and families, and especially Mr. Eccles,” Dr. Good said. “Today, he defines the next century for this institution and our great state. On behalf of the current and future generations of caregivers to pass through our halls, I express our profound gratitude. The name Spencer Fox  Eccles will forever be identified with healing, discovery, optimism, and compassion.”

University of Utah Health is the only academic medical center in the Intermountain West, providing patient care for nearly 10 percent of the geographic area of the continental United States. This gift will catalyze the most critical evolution in the School of Medicine’s history and be used across three primary areas: education, research, and facilities.

The gift includes $40 million for endowment, which will enrich student scholarships, recruitment of top-flight faculty, and innovative medical education programs; $40 million for research, focused on cardiovascular science and heart disease; and $30 million for a new, state-of-the-art School of Medicine building. These resources will allow the School of Medicine to develop innovations in health care delivery (especially for rural and underserved populations), advances in teaching models and timelines, and, eventually, make future increases in the size of the medical school class possible. The health and well-being of Utahns and citizens in the Intermountain West will benefit from every aspect of the gift.

“This is a defining moment for the School of Medicine at the University of Utah,” Dr. Good added. “The opportunity before us now is to achieve preeminence—in our people, programs, and facilities. We are confident this gift will bring better health for the people of Utah and beyond by preparing the highest-caliber medical students for the challenges of the future. We also believe it will lead to path-breaking research that will improve care, extend life expectancy and function, restore health, and enhance quality of life.”

About the George S. and Dolores Doré Foundation

In the nearly 40 years since the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation first became active in 1982, it has furthered the philanthropic interests of its namesakes through statewide charitable grants to improve the quality of life enjoyed by the people of Utah. The Foundation’s legacy of support—now totaling more than $750 million—represents a significant investment in the economic vitality and future strength of the state of Utah and the Intermountain West.

The Foundation’s grants are awarded in five focus areas including Arts & Culture, Community (social services), Education, Health & Wellness, and Preservation & Conservation.

A son of pioneering Utah entrepreneur and industrialist David Eccles, George S. Eccles was a leading figure for more than half a century in the banking industry in Utah and nationally. He played a key role in founding and guiding First Security Corporation and served as its Chairman & CEO for nearly 40 years (1945-1982). George and his wife, Dolores, were active civic volunteers whose generous involvement and support—especially in education, health care, and the arts—made an important difference in Salt Lake City and throughout Utah. Today, the foundation they created furthers their remarkable generosity, with grant-making programs throughout the state continuing to enrich the lives of all Utahns under the leadership of its Board of Directors, including Spencer F. Eccles, Chairman & CEO; Lisa E. Eccles, President & COO; and Robert M. Graham, Vice President, Treasurer & General Counsel.

About the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation

Since it became active in 1978, the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation has been a generous and consistent supporter of medical research in Utah and California, awarding more than $150 million to further basic research in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis. When Nora Eccles established the foundation, she became aware of the importance of basic medical research to advance our understanding of the science of the human heart. This led to her support of research that has contributed significantly to the world’s understanding of cardiovascular diseases, leading to improved treatments and therapies.

The Foundation has been particularly supportive of University of Utah Health, which has benefitted from more than $82 million in grants, including more than $56 million to the Cardiovascular Research and Training Institute (CVRTI). Over its 52-year history, CVRTI investigators have contributed seminal findings in electrocardiography, the mechanisms and treatments of cardiac arrhythmias, and heart failure. In 1976, the University of Utah named the CVRTI in honor of Nora Eccles.

A daughter of pioneering Utah entrepreneur and industrialist David Eccles, Nora took an active interest not only in medical research but also the fine arts, and she was an accomplished ceramicist in her own right. As chair of her Foundation, she remained closely involved with the CVRTI’s work until her passing in 1978. She is succeeded in that role today by a 30-year foundation veteran—her nephew, Spencer F. Eccles—who is joined on the Foundation’s board by Katie A. Eccles, Lawrence M. Harrison, Kathryn C. Econome, Robert M. Graham, and Kenneth W. Spitzer.