News and analysis
February 08, 2015

No. 34: Gary Michelson

Amount donated in 2014: $65-million

Top beneficiary: University of Southern California

Other notable gift: Found Animals Foundation

Background: Dr. Michelson is a retired orthopedic spinal surgeon and an inventor of surgical instruments and medical implants.

Dr. Michelson, 66, pledged $50-million to the University of Southern California for the new Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, where research will focus on intersecting projects in engineering, life and biomedical sciences, and other fields.

Many organizations have approached Dr. Michelson over the years offering to name buildings for him in exchange for large gifts. The university distinguished itself from others, he said, because USC officials proposed an approach to science that Dr. Michelson felt no other institution was pursuing and were receptive to ideas he had suggested to other organizations, which showed little interest.

"No matter where you go, universities claim their scientists work collaboratively with other scientists, but working collaboratively is not working convergently," said Dr. Michelson. The focus at the University of Southern California "was on doing research that would manifest in the real world in the immediate future," he said. "They have a sense of urgency and a vision for how to bring disciplines together to solve problems."

He also gave $15-million to the Found Animals Foundation, a nonprofit he started in 2005 to try to reduce the number of pets euthanized in animal shelters. The foundation supports responsible adoption, low-cost spay and neuter programs, microchip implantation, and registration for pets.

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