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$50 Million Gift Sets Record for M. D. Anderson

Conquest - Summer 2007


By DeDe DeStefano

Ingenuity. Innovation. Focus. Drive.

T. Boone Pickens’ gift aims to leave a $1 billion legacy.

It’s not surprising to hear these words used in conversations regarding T. Boone Pickens – certainly they’ve been spoken around boardroom conference tables for years. Now, they’re being used in philanthropic circles just as frequently.

In a move that made M. D. Anderson history on May 16, Pickens gave the institution its largest gift to date – $50 million. The gift also was the largest for the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, which he created just five months prior.

The size of the gift alone holds great promise for the future of cancer research and patient care programs, but what speaks to its ingenuity and innovation is the manner in which it’s constructed. M. D. Anderson must grow the original $50 million into $500 million within 25 years before the funds are used. That same day, Pickens made a similar gift to The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, with an identical charge.

Through both gifts, Pickens is focusing his efforts on building a $1 billion legacy for health care. His initial gifts provide “seed” money to create special funds at both M. D. Anderson and UT Southwestern. Each institution may choose to grow these funds from earnings on the original principal or from new outside donations, or from a combination of both. When the $500 million mark is reached, each institution will be able to apply the funds to high-priority projects. If the goal is not reached, each institution still keeps the original $50 million, but the interest earned will go to Oklahoma State University, Pickens’ alma mater.

“These gifts carry tremendous potential to change the face of the future of health care. On behalf of the more than 70,000 patients M. D. Anderson sees each year, along with their friends and family members, I extend our gratitude to Boone Pickens,” M. D. Anderson President John Mendelsohn, M.D., says. “Pickens’ innovation in business has resulted in extraordinary success and returns, and his goal is to have the same hold true for his philosophy of giving. His forward thinking regarding health care issues has long helped patients at M. D. Anderson and truly around the world.”

In recognition of Pickens’ gift, M. D. Anderson will name its new 21-story, 730,000-square-foot signature academic building the T. Boone Pickens Academic Tower. The tower, scheduled to open in spring 2008, will be the tallest structure at M. D. Anderson and includes executive and faculty offices, classrooms and conference facilities. The top floor will feature a state-of-the-art cancer research library, which is being designed to facilitate both independent study and group interactions.

Investing in greatness

Pickens’ pioneering approach to supporting cancer research at M. D. Anderson began more than 20 years ago. Before the notion that cancer could be prevented was grounded in science or was popular, Pickens established the Boone Pickens Distinguished Professorship for the Early Prevention of Cancer at M. D. Anderson. His gift to create that professorship encouraged M. D. Anderson to expand its horizons and push forth ideas to prevent cancer in the first place, rather than just treating cancer after it developed.

M. D. Anderson President John Mendelsohn, M.D., takes Pickens on a tour of the institution’s new 21-story academic tower that will bear Pickens’ name.

More recently, Pickens formed the T. Boone Pickens Foundation to “increase my focus on investments outside the traditional business world and into the philanthropic marketplace. My objective is to invest in programs, initiatives and people who could have a great impact in America. Of course, that’s why I picked these two institutions. I have witnessed firsthand the great work being done at UT Southwestern and M. D. Anderson.”

Pickens also has supported M. D. Anderson for many years with his time. He served on M. D. Anderson’s Board of Visitors from 1977 to 1986, including a term as chair from 1983 to 1984.

An entrepreneur from the start

Born in the small town of Holdenville, Okla., Pickens became an entrepreneur at an early age. While he was still a teen, he expanded his newspaper route sales by acquiring surrounding routes one by one. Then, after graduating from Oklahoma State University, Pickens worked for Phillips Petroleum for three years before starting his own company, Mesa Petroleum, in 1956, with no reserves and a $2,500 stake.

Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, Pickens grew Mesa Petroleum to one of the world’s largest independent oil companies. Since selling the company in 1996, Pickens has given away a substantial portion of his earnings.

In 2006, his charitable activities were an estimated $175 million and ensured his continued ranking as one of the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s top U.S. philanthropists for the second straight year. His $220 million of giving in 2005 placed Pickens fifth on the magazine’s list.

The passion and drive that earned Pickens the business reputation he has today is alive and well and fueling the fire for the future of health care for generations to come.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center