- Erin Kirkland/Daily
By Kyle Swanson, Managing Editor
Published April 21, 2011
University officials announced today that the Taubman Medical Institute has received a gift of $56 million from its namesake.
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Speaking at the Board of Regents meeting this afternoon, University President Mary Sue Coleman told an over-capacity audience that A. Alfred Taubman, for whom the Taubman Medical Institute and A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning are named, recently pledged an additional $56 million to the University.
Taubman's latest gift will endow funding at the Taubman Institute to further "high-risk" research concerning stem cell therapy and Lou Gehrig's disease.
“This is one of the most transformative days in the life of the University,” Coleman said. “Alfred Taubman instinctively sees how this level of investment can make huge advances in science and research. As a scientist, I particularly appreciate the freedom his philanthropy will provide researchers as they push the boundaries of medical science because of funding not available from other sources.
"The University of Michigan receives tremendous support from the NIH, National Science Foundation and other agencies," Coleman added. "But there is truly no public agency in a position to fund the type of work that Mr. Taubman’s gift will now accelerate."
The new donation, which brings Taubman’s total gifts to the University to more than $141 million, makes him the most generous individual donor ever to the University.
In recognition of his transformative gifts to the University, the regents voted to rename the Biomedical Science Research Building in his honor. The building will now be called the A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building.
Speaking at today’s meeting, Taubman said he was excited for the impact his gift could make in medical research.
“This is a very special day for me,” Taubman said. “I’m making the largest commitment I’ve ever made to any institution, but more importantly, I’ve never been as excited about a donation’s potential to have an impact on the lives and well-being of people in this nation and around the world.”
In a separate press conference following his remarks at the regents meeting, Taubman told reporters his motivation for his gift originated when his friend, Sen. Jacob Javits (R–N.Y.), died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — in 1981.
“When you see people in pain and in need, I’m certain that every human being is motivated to want to help, and … I have an opportunity to help,” Taubman said. “We have wonderful scientists here — the greatest in my opinion — and the environment here is very positive. People are interested in making things happen and making change.”
Taubman's other gifts to the University include $22 million in 2008 to the Taubman Institute and $22 million in 2007 to endow the Taubman Institute. Additionally, Taubman donated $30 million in 1999 to the College of Architecture & Urban Planning, which was renamed in his honor as a result.
In 2001, Taubman was found guilty of price-fixing and was sentenced to one year in federal prison and was ordered to pay a fine of $7.5 million. At the time, then-University President Lee Bollinger stood by Taubman and said the University would not change the name of the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, the Taubman Medical Library or the A. Alred Taubman Health Care Center.
Though the University chose to stand by Taubman, some campus officials questioned the decision at the time.
In an interview at the time, then-LSA Dean Edie Goldberg, now a professor of public policy and political science, argued that Taubman's name should be stripped from facilities on campus.
"I don't think that sets a wonderful example for students," Goldberg said in 2001 of the Bollinger's decision to stand with Taubman. "The University really ought to give the money back and find other sources."
Asked today whether Taubman’s legal past could send a message to members of the campus community about the University’s values, Coleman said Taubman’s philanthropy has been vital to the state.
“He has been one of the great citizens of Michigan,” Coleman said. “What can I say? I mean, in so many ways he has supported this state. I know he loves this state, and we have great admiration and respect for him.”
Coleman continued: “Here is a man who has shown in every way he could his dedication, his support, his work — it isn’t just about money, it’s in so many ways that he has been just a wonderful citizen of this state.”
Jerry May, the University’s vice president for development, echoed Coleman’s comments, saying Taubman’s giving has been “from the heart his entire life,” which is why the University chose to accept his gifts, despite his past legal struggles.
“We always look at the character of any of our donors, and if we felt that somebody did not have character that was appropriate for the University of Michigan, we would not accept a gift,” May said. “In this particular case, we believe first off, that Mr. Taubman experienced the consequences of a particular situation. But secondly, he was a great philanthropist to society before that situation happened and has been an incredible philanthropist since.”