A 32-Year-Old Entrepreneur Gives $50 Million to MedStar Georgetown U. Hospital
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital landed a $50 million gift from 32-year-old technology entrepreneur Grant Verstandig and his Verstandig Family Foundation to help pay for the construction of a new surgical building that is scheduled to open in 2023. Plus, U. of Arizona College of Pharmacy also landed a $50 million gift, while five other higher education institutions and PEN America received 8-figure gifts.
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A roundup of notable gifts compiled by the Chronicle:
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
Grant Verstandig gave $50 million through his Verstandig Family Foundation to help pay for the construction of a new surgical building that is scheduled to open in 2023.
Verstandig founded several companies, including Rally Health, a digital health company; Epirus, which designs and builds artificial-intelligence-based technologies for the defense and space industries; and Zephyr AI, a company that uses an artificial-intelligence platform to develop medical treatments.
He co-founded Red Cell Partners, which invests in technology-related businesses in the areas of health care and defense. He serves as an adviser to the National Security Agency and to the CEO of UnitedHealth Group, where he worked from 2017 to 2021 as chief digital officer.
University of Arizona College of Pharmacy
R. Ken Coit pledged $50 million through his family foundation to establish six endowed chairs in drug discovery, neurodegenerative diseases, and toxicology and to endow scholarships for the college’s doctor of pharmacy and doctoral programs. The money will also pay for new research equipment and building upgrades and expand a wing of the pharmacy college’s museum. The college and the museum has been named for the donor.
Coit earned a bachelor’s degree from the college in 1967. He practiced pharmacy for three years before becoming an investor and financial planner. Although he didn’t spend a lot of time working in the pharmacy industry, he credits his professors with instilling in him the values that he says made him successful.
“I may not be a pharmacist now, but I learned a lot in pharmacy school that’s still important to me,” he said in a news release. “My professors demonstrated high ethical standards and integrity and taught me how to take care of patients. They really instilled that we were there to take care of others. I kept and transferred that value when I changed to investing.”
Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello gave $30 million to endow the university’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families, a national research, education, and training center that is focused on the social, economic, education, and policy issues that affect the lives of veterans and their families.
Daniel D’Aniello is chairman emeritus and co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private-equity firm in Washington. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1968 from what is now the Martin J. Whitman School of Management and was drafted into the U.S. Navy that same year. He spent three years serving as a supply officer aboard the U.S.S. Wasp, an aircraft carrier.
The couple gave the institute $20 million in 2018 to build the university’s National Veterans Resource Center, which opened last week. Daniel D’Aniello serves as co-chair of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families Advisory Board.
Wake Forest University
Bob McCreary gave a $20 million challenge gift to kick off the university’s effort to raise money to build a new football center, which will be named for McCreary. He will match donations from other donors.
McCreary attended the university on a football scholarship and played professionally for the National Football League team the Dallas Cowboys from 1961 to 1962. He went on to work in sales in the furniture industry before starting McCreary Modern, a furniture manufacturer in Newton, N.C., in 1986 with his wife, Michele.
Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Roy and Diana Vagelos gave $15 million to support programs in the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, which will be renamed for the donors. Of the total, $10 million will endow new graduate-student fellowships, and the remaining $5 million will go toward bolstering undergraduate programs.
Vagelos is a renowned physician-scientist. He worked for the National Institutes of Health for a decade before joining the university’s faculty and becoming head of the Department of Biological Chemistry in 1966. He left the university in 1975 to join the pharmaceutical giant Merck, where he directed the discovery of the statin drugs Mevacor and Zocor. He later became CEO and chairman of Merck.
The couple said in a news release that they made the gift to honor the university’s former chancellor William Danforth, MD, who died last year. The Vageloses are longtime donors to many institutions and have appeared on the Chronicle’s annual Philanthropy 50 list of the biggest donors three times since 2010.
Shaun McConnon gave $15 million to help build the college’s new science center. The donor earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the college in 1966.
McConnon is a cybersecurity expert who founded four security companies that detect abnormal, suspicious, or intrusive activity: Raptor Systems, Okena, Q1 Labs, and BitSight Technologies. Q1 Labs was acquired by IBM in 2011 for an undisclosed sum.
He has written several books, including the science-fiction novel Supremis, and is working on a book about his career in the technology industry. Earlier in his career, McConnon worked for Honeywell and Sun Microsystems.
Robert Chaffin left more than $14 million. Of the total, more than $12 million will go toward endowing scholarships, and $1.5 million will support the university’s nursing program.
Chaffin was a banker who served in director and executive roles at Commercial Credit Corporation in Lumberton and Fayetteville, N.C.; Cross Creek Savings and Loan in Fayetteville; and East Coast Federal Savings and Loan, also in Fayetteville.
He served in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II and in the U.S. Army. Chaffin died in May at 93.
Peter and Pamela Barbey and their son, Matt, gave $10 million through their Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust, a donor-advised fund at the Arizona Community Foundation that Peter Barbey named for his late father, Edwin Quier Barbey.
The gift will be used to establish the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Center, which will allow the organization to broaden its focus on a growing number of regions around the world where writers and public intellectuals are imperiled. Peter Barbey is a member of the PEN America Board of Trustees.
Peter Barbey is a former president and CEO of the family’s Reading Eagle Company, which owned newspapers, a radio station, and related businesses in Reading, Pa. He bought the Village Voice, a legendary alternative weekly newspaper in New York, and became its publisher in 2015. The tabloid ceased publication in 2018.
The Barbey family are heirs to the VF Corporation fortune. The company includes the retail apparel brands Vans, North Face, the Timberland Company, and Lee Jeans. The company was founded by Peter Barbey’s great-grandfather, John Barbey. Matt Barbey leads Barbey Capital Management, a New York investment firm focused on real estate and publishing, and formerly served as director of strategy for the Village Voice.
To learn about other big donations, see our database of gifts of $1 million or more, which is updated regularly.