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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Sorenson leaves fortune to charity

By Ana Breton

When James LeVoy Sorenson died from cancer at the age of 86 last month, his family said that the late inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist’s assets would be donated to charity.

However, Peggy Hayes, a spokesperson at the Sorenson Legacy Foundation, declined to give any more specific details about how Sorenson’s fortune will be donated, which Forbes magazine estimated to be worth about $4 billion.

Although the names of specific organizations that might be receiving a chunk of the fortune are not being released, there is a chance the U might be among them. The foundation, which was established by Sorenson’s family, has donated $8.2 million to the U in the past.

The business school received $6 million from the foundation last September. The gift was the foundation’s biggest contribution to the U thus far. The business school will use the money to create an interdisciplinary center for the study of discovery, and innovation research grants will go to faculty in any department working on interdisciplinary innovation and discovery related projects. The projects don’t fall far from Sorenson’s legacy, because he was an inventor himself.

Sorenson is known for developing the first computerized heart monitoring system. He also invented the first modern venous catheters and the first disposable surgical masks. However, he rarely applied for official patents for his products.

The business school has received $3.2 million of the total donation pledge, said Fred Esplin, vice president for institutional advancement. The school should receive the total amount within three to four years, he said.

Research grants will go to faculty in any department working on interdisciplinary innovation and discovery related projects.

Although the school of business has received most of the $8.2 million the U has received, the foundation has also given other notable donations to the U. Beverley Sorenson, James’ wife, donated $1.2 million to the College of Fine Arts several years ago. The donation established a permanent chair in its school of music, Esplin said.

“The foundation has been very generous to the U in a number of areas,” he said.

In addition, Esplin said that requests for grants are placed on a monthly basis to many organizations, including the foundation. He said one has been sent to the foundation and one is in the process of being sent. However, he said the requests are “routine” and were not affected by Sorenson’s passing and his family’s announcement of his charitable contribution.

“We’re not scrambling to do something because of his passing,” Esplin said. “We are doing what we have always done.”

Moreover, Esplin said the U has had a long relationship with the foundation.

“We have worked with them for years. We are working with them now and hope to work with them in the future,” Esplin said.

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