October 12, 2007
I want to share with you some good news and a remarkable story. Tulane University School of Medicine has received a $4.4 million donation, one of the largest individual gifts ever made to the school by an alumnus. The donation is remarkable in its own right, but more so when the circumstances are considered.
The source of the funds is stock donated to Tulane in 2000 by alumnus Jim Doty, a neurosurgeon and entrepreneur. At the time he committed to making the gift, Jim had no way of realizing that to keep his promise to Tulane, he literally would have to say goodbye to his personal fortune.
In early 2000, Jim had accumulated about $75 million in paper profits from investments in medical technology companies, including one called Accuray. He pledged to give a substantial amount of Accuray's stock to several institutions, including Tulane.
Just as he was making plans for early retirement, Jim's fortune turned. His paper profits vanished in the dot-com meltdown, and he was $3 million in debt with only one viable asset: stock in privately held Accuray. At that time, the value of the stock was unknown, and the paperwork for Jim's donation had not been signed. His financial advisors told him he could legally step back from his promise if he wanted.
Jim struggled with the issue for some time. Most of his friends prodded him to back out. He refused, saying that he felt a moral obligation to keep his word no matter the circumstances. When Accuray went public earlier this year, Jim's charitable fund was valued at $37 million, representing more than 99 percent of his net worth. Tulane's portion turned out to be valued at $4.4 million.
Jim's gift is extraordinary. His following through on a commitment at such a great personal cost is a testament to his selflessness and integrity. I'm sure I'm not the only one inspired by his example. His donation will establish two endowed chairs, fund scholarships for socio-economically disadvantaged students and help renovate the medical library, among other things. Jim's gift and example will no doubt leave a lasting legacy.
I had the good fortune of having dinner with Jim this week, and he is an exceptional person by any measure you would use to judge character, intelligence and personality. I am proud and pleased he is a Tulanian and such a good friend.
Have a great weekend,
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