News and analysis
February 08, 2015

No. 37: Gordon and Llura Liggett Gund

Amount donated in 2014: $58.2-million

Beneficiary: Foundation Fighting Blindness

Background: Mr. Gund is chief executive of Gund Investment Corporation, a venture-capital firm.

Gordon Gund says he first began to lose his eyesight in college, and as a Navy pilot he noticed his peripheral vision was weakening.

But he didn’t fully realize what was happening to him until he was about 30 and starting his finance career in New York in the 1960s. It was then that he started having trouble driving at night and soon had to stop altogether.

By the 1970s, he was completely blind, the result of the genetic disease retinitis pigmentosa. But he forged a successful career and co-founded the Foundation Fighting Blindness in 1971.

Today, the 75-year-old and his wife, Llura, are devoting their time and much of their fortune to the nonprofit, which supports research to find cures for retinal degenerative diseases.

In 2014, the couple pledged $50-million to the foundation to speed up basic, preclinical, translational, and clinical research. The money will go toward matching donations of $25,000 or more from others to raise an additional $50-million by June 30, 2016.

But there is no cap on the Gunds’ pledge. If donations from others exceed the goal, said Mr. Gund, he will match it.

"We’re hoping this is going to get [scientists] to a platform that will be a cure for retinal diseases and that are going to be available for lots of people," said Mr. Gund. "It’s research whose time has come."

The couple also gave the nonprofit $8.2-million more for operating and other costs. Including their most recent commitment, the Gunds have given more than $100-million to the nonprofit over the years.

Send an e-mail to Maria Di Mento.