Eccles Foundations Donate $110 Million to U School of Medicine


Kevin Cody

University of Utah Hospital main entrance in Salt Lake City on June 23, 2021. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Chandler Joost, News Writer


In early June 2021, the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation and the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation donated $110 million to the University of Utah School of Medicine. The donation was the largest gift the Eccles Foundation has given to date.

The U has been a long-time benefactor of the Eccles foundation, receiving numerous donations to the school. Never before has a donation of this size been given. When asked how long this donation has been in the works, Toni Lehtinen, communications director at the Eccles Foundation, indicated that work has been underway for a while.

“Groundwork has been underway for quite some time leading up to a gift such as this,” Lehtinen said.

Money from this donation will be split into three parts: $40 million for scholarships and student aid, $40 million for research, namely cardiovascular and heart disease research, and $30 million for a new school of medicine building which will be renamed after Spencer F. Eccles.

According to Lehtinen, the specific details of this gift began to take shape about a year and a half ago.

Kathy Wilets, director of media relations for U Health, said there is a need for a new school of medicine building because they have simply outgrown the current building.

Wilets explained that the current school of medicine is filled with theater-style classrooms with steep auditorium seating. According to Wilets, this was built for a learning style that the school no longer uses.

“It was built for a different time,” Wilets said. “Learning now is more collaborative, innovative and hands-on.”

The School of Medicine has been working for several years in order to move students and staff into other buildings on campus while construction is underway.

This donation is not without precedent, though. The Eccles family and the Eccles foundation have made numerous donations to the U.

“We’ve been working with the Eccles family for decades now in the Health Sciences field,” Wilets said.

When talking about what the foundation hopes this donation will accomplish, Lehtinen referenced the initial press release and more specifically a quote by  Spencer F. Eccles.

“We hope this seminal grant — the largest ever awarded by our foundations — will help ensure the University not only provides the highest quality medical education for the doctors who serve Utah and the entire Intermountain West, but also furthers the excellence of healthcare for all our citizens and impacts the future of medicine through its groundbreaking research,” Spencer F. Eccles said in the press release.

When considering why the foundation decided to donate $110 million to the school of medicine, Spencer F. Eccles said that it was always a theme of his at First Security National Bank to give 110% to whatever he was doing. He hopes that this gift will invest in students always willing to give 110% to whatever they do.

“It’s an investment in the future of our fellow citizens—particularly in the medical students today and those to follow—who will have opportunities to practice medicine in innovative ways never before imagined, committing themselves ‘110%’ to improving and saving lives,” Spencer F. Eccles said.


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