An Iowa businessman wanted to do "something big" for the clinic, which will build two centers to treat cancer patients.
The Mayo Clinic has received its largest donation from a living person -- a $100 million gift that will be used to establish two innovative cancer-fighting centers.
The donation comes from Iowa businessman and philanthropist Richard O. Jacobson, who also is a longtime patient and benefactor of the Rochester institution.
"I've been very fortunate, made a lot of money, and I have no family," Jacobson told reporters at the announcement on Thursday. "I always wanted to do something for Mayo Clinic."
Mayo plans to use the money to build facilities in Rochester and Phoenix to treat cancer tumors using proton beam therapy. The treatment is considered a better alternative to conventional radiation because the beam targets tumors more precisely, with fewer side effects, Mayo CEO Dr. John Noseworthy said.
Jacobson's offering gets the clinic a quarter of the way to raising the $400 million it needs to complete the facilities, which are expected to open by 2016. The cancer center in downtown Rochester will be named after Jacobson.
"This type of gift makes us more confident that the commitment made by our leaders is going to become a reality," said Dr. Michael Camilleri, Mayo Clinic's medical director of development.
The donation ranks among the top six for Mayo, where estate gifts are much more common, Camilleri said.
Jacobson is founder of Des Moines-based Jacobson Cos., one of the country's largest privately owned warehouse companies. Jacobson said he began going to the Mayo Clinic with family members when he was about 4.
His parents grew up in Harmony, Minn., and he said his grandfather was friends with the Mayo brothers, Charles and William, whose practice helped lay the foundation for the nonprofit hospital.
When he heard about the proton beam project, Jacobson said he knew his donation would be a good fit.
"I started a warehouse business and built big, big buildings. And we hired thousands of employees," he said. "I like to do things in a big way."
Mayo will indeed become an impact player in the growing field, Camilleri said.
Nine centers around the country use proton therapy to treat tumors in the lung, breast and prostate.
Mayo will use a more advanced variation known as pencil beam scanning, now in use by just one center in the country. Mayo expects to treat about 2,480 patients a year.
Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335