It was Valentine’s Day 1980 when the University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit saved the lives of University Regent David Brandon’s twin sons.

Steven Neff

The premature newborns, Nick and Chris, were rushed to the University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, because doctors at the community hospital where they were born could not treat the boys’ rare blood disease.

One of the twins had been taking from the other’s blood supply in the womb, leaving one anemic and the other overwhelmed with red blood cells. One of the twins, Brandon said, was purple.

The twins spent the first several weeks of their lives in the facility before making a full recovery.

“That’s not something you forget,” Brandon said.

Brandon, then 28 at the time, was just beginning a new business venture with partner Larry Johnson called Valassis which would lead to Brandon’s future corporate success.

And 26 years later, with a $4-million donation to the University, half of which will go to the facility that saved his friends, Brandon has remembered.

The money from Brandon and his wife, Jan, will bring the University’s Michigan Difference fundraising campaign closer to its goal of $2.5 billion.

To date, the campaign has raised more than $2.1 billion.

Brandon, an Ann Arbor Republican who is the chairman and CEO of Domino’s Pizza, was elected to the Board of Regents in 1998 and is up for reelection this November.

The Brandons’ donation will be split across several areas of the University where their family has personal connections.

Two million dollars will be dedicated to the construction of a state-of-the-art neonatal intensive care unit within the new $523-million C.S Mott Children’s and Women’s Hospital. University officials expect to break ground on the new hospital this October. Brandon said the hospital is cramped for space, particularly in the neonatal unit.

“Chairs are wedged between incubators,” he said.

Brandon said the unit’s new layout will be much more accommodating to families, giving them more private space and allowing them to stay with their children 24 hours a day.

Of the remaining $2 million, $500,000 will go toward creating a center to store digital records at the School of Education. Brandon graduated from the school in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate. He said that while the school had the space to house the research materials, it lacked the funds for the proper technology.

The Brandons earmarked $750,000 for the Athletic Department, $250,000 of which will be set aside for the David and Jan Brandon Scholarship Fund to assist student athletes.

As a defensive end on the football team, Brandon was apart of three Big Ten championship teams and the 1972 Rose Bowl squad.

The last of the funds will be split into three $250,000 gifts, one to the University’s Museum of Art, one to the urology department and one to the Business School.

Brandon said the timing of this donation is completely unrelated to his re-election campaign. He will compete for one of the two board seats up for grabs.

“I can’t imagine that giving $4 million to the University can be viewed negatively,” he said. “I can’t imagine that there will be many voters in the state of Michigan that will even know I made this donation to the University.”

Interesting Facts:
Brandon and his wife Jan – along with football head coach Lloyd Carr and his wife Laurie – are co-chairs of C.S. Mott Children’s and Women’s Hospital’s Champions for Children fundraising campaign, a branch of the Michigan Difference campaign

n Jan Brandon is a member of the University Museum of Art’s National Advisory Board and has been active in the museum’s renovation plans.

n David Brandon is also part of the Graduate “M” Club, the Victors Club, the Director’s Circle and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business Visiting Committee.

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