University of California at San Francisco Gets $500 Million Gift

  • Most of donation will boost school’s $1.2 billion endowment
  • Helen Diller Foundation gift will fund students, faculty

The University of California at San Francisco is receiving its largest-ever donation, $500 million, the majority of which will go into the public school’s $1.2 billion endowment.

The commitment comes from the foundation of Helen Diller, a San Francisco philanthropist who died two years ago and built the nonprofit with her husband Sanford Diller, founder of Prometheus Real Estate Group.

The gift, also the largest to any of the 10 schools in the University of California system, comes at a time when Congress is interested in tax reform, especially with college endowments and donations to the wealthiest U.S. colleges. UCSF is a top fundraiser among universities, taking in the fourth-largest haul in fiscal 2015. The decision to put such a large chunk into the endowment, where it will be invested for the long-term, is unusual.

Setting Examples

“We hope to encourage other giving in this manner and to set an example to show the tremendous trust and confidence in UCSF to have impact on global health care for all,” said the Dillers’ daughter, Jackie Safier, president of both the foundation and Prometheus, which builds and manages luxury apartments in the San Francisco area and western U.S. “Ultimately, we’re investing in the great researchers, educators and practitioners.”

Safier’s mother was born at a hospital that is now part of the university. The family and its foundation also has given more than $150 million to the school, which helped establish a cancer center and funded a building for it.

The current gift will create a $200 million endowment each for student and faculty funding, including financial aid. The remaining $100 million will create a fund that can be drawn upon at the discretion of the school’s chancellor.

Record Gifts

U.S. universities raised a record $40 billion in fiscal 2015, the most recent data available, with UCSF taking in $609 million, according to an annual survey by the Council for Aid to Education.

The school’s previous largest single gift was announced last April, $185 million from Sanford Weill, former chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc., and his wife, Joan, to establish an institute for neuroscience research.

Only graduate students attend UCSF, which offers degrees in health-related fields such as medicine, dentistry and pharmacy.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.