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GW lands largest-ever gifts, renames public health school

Media Credit: GW Media Relations.
Public health school dean Lynn Goldman speaks with philanthropist and financier Mike Milken at an alumni event in New York, N.Y. last October.

Updated: March 11 at 12:57 a.m.

The public health school will receive $80 million to boost research and scholarships over the next five years, a burst of funding that includes the University’s two largest-ever gifts.

The three-part donation, which will help prevent chronic diseases such as obesity, comes from billionaire philanthropists Michael Milken and Sumner Redstone. The gift far surpasses GW’s previous record of $25 million for its Textile Museum in 2011.

The Milken Institute, an economic think tank in Santa Monica, Calif., will supply half the funds, totaling $40 million. It is also now the namesake of the public health school, which has been renamed the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

The foundation run by Redstone, whose family owns Viacom, donated $30 million to create a global center for health and wellness on campus. Another $10 million comes from Milken Family Foundation to endow the dean’s position and several scholarship funds.

“These new resources will greatly enhance our university’s capacity to address global health challenges with life-altering solutions,” University President Steven Knapp said in a release.

Knapp, along with public health school dean Lynn Goldman, are currently in California to receive the gifts, which are years in the making. Goldman, who arrived from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, was hired by GW in 2010. She has recently overseen the construction of the school’s $75 million building on 24th Street, which will open this month.

Media Credit: GW Media Relations.
Sumner Redstone, who serves as board chairman of both CBS Corporation and Viacom, is 90 years old and a survivor of prostate cancer.

The announcement also buoys the University’s fundraising effort, which has long lagged behind its competitor schools. Until now, GW had counted just 10 gifts that top $10 million though it relies heavily on fundraising to cover the cost of programs and buildings while avoiding tuition hikes.

Milken and Redstone also partnered for a $105 million gift for burn recovery and cancer research for a trio of organizations in 2007. They are both survivors of prostate cancer and Redstone was once told he had only three months to live.

Redstone earned an honorary degree from GW in 2006 and is the grandfather of an alumnus, according to a report by the Washington Post.

“I am proud to join the Milken Institute and Milken Family Foundation in supporting this great institution’s efforts to help fight some of the biggest health issues of our time, and give millions access to healthier and longer lives,” Redstone, who is 90 years old, said in a release.

The University’s fundraising chief had hinted at upcoming big gifts earlier this year. Fundraising figures declined by about 14 percent last year, which was grim news for an office that is preparing to launch a campaign that’s expected to ask for $1 billion over a decade.

Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Mike Morsberger said in January that he was “pretty confident” that the expected gifts would make 2014 a record-breaking fundraising year overall, beating out the $120 million raised in 2012, which included the Textile Museum gift.

This post was updated March 11 at 9:36 a.m. to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly spelled the name of Sumner Redstone. We regret this error.

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