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The University of Pennsylvania received a record $225 million gift for its medical school, creating an endowment that officials said will enable innovative health research, increased faculty recruitment and more financial aid for students.
The School of Medicine also will be named for donors Raymond and Ruth Perelman, Penn announced in a news release Wednesday. The Ivy League university in Philadelphia described the gift as the largest in its history and the biggest ever nationwide to name a medical school.
"It's a great shot in the arm," Penn President Amy Gutmann told The Associated Press. "There couldn't be a better time for him to make this gift. ... We're at a peak in needing these resources and a peak when medicine can make the breakthroughs that are needed."
Perelman, a 93-year-old Philadelphia philanthropist and business mogul, heads privately held RGP Holdings Inc. that includes manufacturing, mining and financial interests. A Penn alum and major supporter of the city's arts and cultural institutions, Perelman also put up millions in a failed bid to buy The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News at a bankruptcy auction last year.
He previously gave Penn $25 million for the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, which opened in 2008.
"Ruth and I believe the future of medicine depends on the ability to produce world-class clinicians and researchers, the hallmarks of Penn and a Penn education," Perelman said in a statement.
Gutmann said the donation will allow Penn to increase financial aid by at least 20 percent for the medical school class entering in 2012. Reducing loan burdens can enable students to enter the most-needed areas of medicine instead of the most lucrative, she said.
The funds also will help boost research and recruit more faculty. Penn's medical school includes more than 1,800 faculty members and 2,200 students and trainees.
The gift is an indication that the effects of the recession may be easing, said Rae Goldsmith of the Washington-based Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
"Certainly, in the last six months to a year we've seen those large gifts coming forward again," Goldsmith said. "Donors are having more confidence in the economy."
Two large recent gifts went to the University of Southern California. The private school in Los Angeles received $200 million in March from steel company executive David Dornsife and his wife, Dana, to rename its college of arts and sciences. In April, the school announced a $110 million donation for student scholarships from John and Julie Mork, who made their fortune in oil and gas.
Last year yielded the lowest total for charitable giving by the nation's biggest donors in at least a decade, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. The top 50 philanthropists collectively gave $3.3 billion in 2010, compared with $15.5 billion in 2008 before the economy went south.
It's too early to tell how 2011 might compare, said Maria Di Mento, an editor at the publication.
Gutmann and Penn board of trustees Chairman David Cohen notified the university community of the Perelmans' gift in an email Tuesday night.