Vol 10. Issue 11 / March 29, 2010

Richard and Helen DeVos Gift Kicks Off Drive to Endow Scripps Florida Graduate Program

By Eric Sauter

The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation has donated $100,000 to The Scripps Research Institute that will be used to jump start a new philanthropic drive to expand the graduate school program at Scripps Florida. The program, part of Scripps Research's Kellogg School of Science and Technology, offers a doctoral degree with an emphasis on chemistry, chemical biology, biophysics, or the biological sciences.

The new funding initiative offers donors the chance to name a seat in the Rodney B. Fink Education Pavilion on the Jupiter campus.

"We have watched Scripps Florida grow from a single idea to a high-tech center for world-class biomedical research right here in Jupiter," said entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard DeVos. "However, to maintain that position and to expand its research, Scripps Florida needs to keep attracting the best young scholars to its graduate school program. We hope that our gift will encourage and inspire others to contribute to what is one of the best graduate programs in the sciences in the world."

In 1959, Rich DeVos and a high school friend formed Amway, which today is one of the largest privately held companies in America. Known for being champions of free enterprise, Rich and his wife, Helen, are also some of the foremost philanthropists in the United States. Numerous people and organizations have been touched by their generosity.

As the owner of the Orlando Magic NBA basketball team, DeVos has a special interest in the state of Florida. The DeVoses were early supporters of the vision of then-governor Jeb Bush to develop a thriving biotechnology industry in the state.

Scripps Research's commitment to improving human health through advanced biomedical research, its entrepreneurial approach to research, and its culture of innovation made it a natural partner for the DeVos family's charitable giving and their philosophy of helping individuals fulfill their potential so they can contribute to society.

"We hope that others will respond to Rich and Helen DeVos' generosity and become partners in the innovative work of preparing scientists who have dedicated themselves to advancing the field of medicine and saving lives," said Will Melton, vice president for philanthropy for Scripps Florida. "We need help to keep our unique approach to research science and graduate education moving ahead and this is the perfect opportunity."

A Level of Excellence

Out of a total of 24 students currently enrolled in the Scripps Florida graduate program, half a dozen have a connection to Florida. So far, four students have completed their Ph.D. degrees on the Florida campus. The entire institute's graduate program encompasses approximately 200 Ph.D. candidates on both the California and Florida campuses.

"The level of excellence and accomplishment of our Scripps Florida graduate students is exceptional," said William R. Roush, associate dean for the Scripps Florida graduate program, as well as professor of chemistry and executive director of Medicinal Chemistry at Scripps Florida. "The DeVos contribution will help us continue to identify and recruit top notch candidates, especially those who come from Florida."

The quality of the Scripps Research graduate program has been widely recognized by independent sources. For one, U.S. News & World Report, which periodically reviews the nation's colleges, has ranked The Scripps Research Institute among the best graduate schools in the country. In the biological sciences, the magazine ranks Scripps Research seventh in the nation; in chemistry, sixth. The graduate program is at no cost to the students, who are provided with a stipend to cover living and other expenses.

"Our students graduate with a unique perspective on the interplay of the biological and chemical sciences, and how that works in the area of drug discovery and development," Roush said. "Their work will help accelerate drug discovery programs at Scripps Florida and other research institutes, and could eventually lead to the development of new therapies for a host of diseases. These individuals will help shape the future of medical science no matter where they end up."

The new funding initiative is being spearheaded by a committee made up of Scripps Florida Council members and other friends of Scripps Research and chaired by Jane Halbritter, a well-known New York-Florida businesswoman and philanthropist. Other members of the committee include Eileen Berman, Chip Block, Michael Bracci, Elizabeth M. Fago, Joyce McLendon, William and Rosalie Roush, Jeff Stanfield and Scripps Florida Council co-chairs Leanna Landsmann and Chris Sullivan. Honorary Chairs are Alex and Renate Dreyfoos and Sydelle Meyer.

The Scripps Florida Council was formed to attract volunteer leaders who will bring valuable networks of friends and a broad range of expertise to help Scripps Florida to accelerate and enhance its results. By serving as ambassadors and advocates for Scripps Florida in their various business and social communities, council members can extend the reach of staff and Trustees. Central to the mission of the council is to introduce Scripps Florida to people interested in advancing biomedical research, and to get them involved in supporting the scientific efforts under way on both campuses.

Those interested in knowing more about the Council's activities should contact Will Melton, vice president for Philanthropy, Scripps Florida, (562)-228-2018 or wmelton@scripps.edu.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



"We hope that our gift will encourage and inspire others to contribute to what is one of the best graduate programs in the sciences in the world," said entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard DeVos, shown here with his wife, Helen.