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In Memoriam:
L.S. ‘Sam’ Skaggs Jr. (1923 - 2013)

Philanthropist and entrepreneur L.S. “Sam” Skaggs, who was a generous benefactor of The Scripps Research Institute, passed away March 21 from age-related causes. He was 89.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the Skaggs family,” said Michael A. Marletta, president and CEO of The Scripps Research Institute. “Sam Skaggs was a leader in business and philanthropy who leaves a lasting legacy across this country. There are few places he transformed more than TSRI, where his generosity had an enormous impact on our ability to advance science to improve human health. He passed his interest in our mission onto daughter Claudia and son Mark, who continue to serve as valued members of our Board of Trustees.”

Starting in the 1980s, Mr. Skaggs and his wife, Aline W. Skaggs, made numerous gifts to TSRI through the Skaggs family foundation, The ALSAM Foundation. In 1996, they made a commitment of $100 million—one of the largest ever made for medical research—to create The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology. 

“There’s no doubt that Sam Skaggs was an extraordinary individual,” said Julius Rebek, who left MIT to become director of the new Skaggs Institute at TSRI after meeting with Mr. Skaggs. “His sincere commitment to better humankind impressed me enormously.” 

With the ultimate goal of alleviating human suffering, the Skaggs Institute brings together intellectual, technological and financial resources to conduct research at the interface of chemistry and biology. This research lays the foundation for rational drug design, the process of developing new compounds to address a variety of genetic, autoimmune, viral and bacterial diseases.

A Retail Pioneer

L.S. “Sam” Skaggs was born on August 9, 1923, and grew up in the states of Washington and Idaho. 

He served four years in the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service in Europe during World War II. Following his military service, he returned to work in the family’s retail drug store business, Skaggs Drug Centers.

He was 26 when his father died suddenly and he assumed the presidency of the 11-store drug chain. Rising to the challenge, he began a drive to expand the business, acquiring new companies and branching out across the country. Fifteen years later, in 1965 when he took the business public on the New York Stock Exchange as Skaggs Drug Centers, the company operated 65 drug stores and had sales of $89 million.

Mr. Skaggs is credited with pioneering the first successful combination food and drug store with a common checkout. Upon his retirement as chairman of American Stores Company, the successor to Skaggs Companies, American was one of the nation’s leading food and drug retailers. Mr. Skaggs built American Stores Company from a small drug chain to a national company operating nearly 1,700 stores—with such household names as Lucky Stores, Acme Markets, Osco Drug, Star Markets, Jewel Food Stores and Sav-on Drug—with sales of $18.5 billion. 

Acts of Generosity

While he only reluctantly accepted accolades for his acts of philanthropy, Mr. Skaggs gave hundreds of millions of dollars to education and health research though the family’s ALSAM Foundation.

At TSRI, in addition to the $100 million gift to create the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, the foundation underwrote the construction of The Aline W. & L.S. Skaggs Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Center and provided financial support for research relating to anti-cancer drug design.

In 1998, TSRI honored Mr. Skaggs with an honorary degree. 

Elsewhere across the country, Mr. Skaggs actively supported the development and construction of schools of pharmacy at the University of Utah, University of Colorado, University of Arizona, University of Montana, Idaho State University and the University of California, San Diego. He also created the Skaggs Institute of Retail Management and the Sam & Aline W. Skaggs Research Ranch in cooperation with Brigham Young University.

The foundation’s philanthropic and charitable projects have included the acquisition of land and construction of the St. Vincent DePaul Soup Kitchen, the Bishop William K. Weigand Human Resource Center for the Homeless, the St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church Day Care Center/Parish Social Hall and Education Center, the Mater Dei Catholic High School in Chula Vista, California, and a $50 million Skaggs Catholic Center in Draper, Utah, which includes Catholic elementary and high schools in cooperation with The Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Mr. Skaggs is survived by his wife, Aline, their four children, 16 grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren.

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Sam_SkaggsPhilanthropist and entrepreneur L.S. “Sam” Skaggs was a generous benefactor of The Scripps Research Institute.