A Perfect Prescription: Here's Why a Medical School Landed a $30 Million Gift

The State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences recently received a $30 million gift from Jeremy M. Jacobs, his wife Margaret, and their family. UB medical school will become the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The gift will support "innovative medical education and research programs, student scholarships and construction of a state-of-the-art medical school building in downtown Buffalo, to be completed in 2017."

Besides the particulars of the gift, the story behind it reiterates some common themes we talk all the time at Inside Philanthropy, including deep regional ties, and a history of past giving. This is also a medical gift, and unsurprisingly, personal connections to disease also play a role for the Jacobs family.

Let's begin with a brief rundown of the donors behind the gift. Jeremy Jacobs, 75, chairs Delaware North, a global hospitality and food service company headquartered in Buffalo. Delaware North was founded 100 years ago, in 1915. Jacobs took over the company from his father and now runs Delaware North with his three sons. Jacobs is also on the Forbes billionaire list, worth $4 billion as of this writing, and owns the Boston Bruins. He attended University at Buffalo.

So Jacobs and his family obviously have strong ties to Western New York and a sense of alumni loyalty, which explain this gift. Past Jacobs philanthropy at the University at Buffalo includes supporting a UB School of Management Program in China, and creating the Jacobs Executive Development Center. Including their recent $30 million gift, the Jacobs family has given some $50 million to University at Buffalo over the years. Jacobs currently serves as co-chair of the UB medical school's fundraising committee, and in the 1980s, served as chair of the UB Foundation.

It's worth noting that Jacobs was pulled back into the community by a friend who encouraged him to join the UB Foundation. These kinds of introductions can pay off years later, and now the Jacobs family is one of the largest benefactors in the university's history.

Besides regional ties and a history of past philanthropy, I should mention Jeremy Jacob's brother, the late Lawrence Jacobs, a prominent neurologist in the region. After earning a medical degree from St. Louis University, Lawrence Jacobs joined the faculty of University at Buffalo medical school, where he later became neurology chairman. Jeremy Jacobs and Margaret previously gave $10 million to Jacobs Institute, an interdisciplinary medical and research center, to honor Lawrence, who died of cancer. 

Should it be any surprise, then, that Jacobs is continuing to support a field that his brother was deeply passionate about? In case you had any doubts about all of this, here's Jacobs in his own words: "I learned from my brother Larry that a career in medicine is one of lifelong learning and teaching..."

Finally, let's not forget about the regional impact of this gift. As Jacobs puts it, "This is my hometown. We’ve got several thousand employees in the greater Western New York area. This is an investment in their quality of life. And it’s a statement of them, collectively.”