October 16, 2007
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 contribution is even more remarkable considering the donor, Gulf Coast neurosurgeon Jim Doty, ended up giving away his entire personal fortune to keep his promise to Tulane and others.
“This gift from Jim is extraordinary,” said Scott S. Cowen, president of Tulane University. “His following through on a commitment at such a great personal cost, is a testament to his selflessness and integrity. We are so proud and grateful to have Jim as an alumnus of Tulane.”
The source of the funds is stock Doty donated to Tulane in 2000. At the time, Doty had accumulated about $75 million in paper profits from investments in medical technology companies, including one called Accuray. He pledged to donate a substantial amount of Accuray's stock to benefit several institutions, including Tulane and Stanford universities, where he once taught.
Doty planned to retire early and was buying a $5 million San Francisco apartment, a 6,500-acre island in New Zealand and a villa in Tuscany. His fortune turned quickly. 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. The value of the stock was unknown at the time, 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.
Doty 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, Doty'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. The remainder of the money went to Stanford University's neurosurgery department, Family Children Services of San Jose, Calif., relief organization Global Healing and other charities.
Doty has no regrets. "I am fortunate that I had the opportunity to do this. I get to help people every day. I am the luckiest guy in the world," says Doty, who is currently director of Neurosciences and Rehabilitation for Memorial Hospital at Gulfport in Gulfport, Miss.
Doty is a 1981 graduate of Tulane School of Medicine. His donation will establish two endowed chairs, fund scholarships for socioeconomically disadvantaged students and help renovate the medical library, among other things.
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