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July 26, 2016

Obituary: Conrad Prebys, Major Calif. Health and Arts Donor

Conrad Prebys, a San Diego property magnate who donated hundreds of millions of dollars to support health care, higher education, and cultural institutions, died of cancer Sunday at age 82, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

An Indiana native, Mr. Prebys moved west in the mid-1960s and parlayed a job scouting vacant lots for starter homes into a real-estate empire built on rental properties. He has been a fixture in recent years on The Chronicle’s annual Philanthropy 50 list of top U.S. donors, ranking 15th in 2015, a year in which he made his largest pledge: $100 million to what is now the Sanford Burnham Medical Discovery Institute in San Diego to develop research on cancer and other disorders into new treatments.

Mr. Prebys’s largess focused in large part on his adopted hometown — including eight-figure gifts to San Diego State University, the La Jolla Music Society, Scripps Health, and other regional institutions — and was guided by personal interests ranging from polar bears to British drama, friends said. “He told me once, ‘If a [gift] proposal makes me want to jump up and down, I’m all in,’ ” said Mark Stuart, head of the San Diego Zoo Foundation.