Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary
June 21, 2023
Friendship that spanned a lifetime leads to multimillion-dollar legacy gift to Hotchkiss Brain Institute
A US$12.5-million injection of funding from the late American philanthropist and energy industry giant T. Boone Pickens is bringing new opportunities for brain and mental health research at the University of Calgary.
The legacy gift to the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) — Pickens’ second to the HBI and his only philanthropic giving in Canada — will be used to recruit and train emerging neuroscience research leaders and invest in the commercialization of discoveries in neurosciences, all with the goal of improving brain and mental health for millions of people around the world. The HBI is part of the Cumming School of Medicine.
“One of the things Boone wanted to accomplish with his health and medical giving was to advance health care for generations. And that's what the gift to the Hotchkiss Brain Institute will do,” says Jay Rosser, officer with the T. Boone Pickens Foundation and Pickens’ longtime employee and friend.
Even ahead of the donation, “the discoveries of scholars at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute are bringing hope to patients and families around the world, and this will only be strengthened by Mr. Pickens’ philanthropic leadership,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, UCalgary’s president and vice-chancellor. “The University of Calgary is tremendously grateful to him.”
Pickens’ first gift to the HBI in 2008 funded the US$2.25-million T. Boone Pickens Centre for Neurological Science and Advanced Technologies. Both are a nod to the longtime friendship between Pickens and HBI founding philanthropist Harley Hotchkiss, Hon. LLD’96, and his wife, Rebecca, and their family, including daughter and philanthropist Brenda Mackie, who leads The Hotchkiss Family Foundation.
“My father and Boone met when Dad was just starting out in his business in the late 1950s, and Boone came up from Texas to start a business here in Canada,” says Mackie. “T. Boone Pickens was larger than life — he was a legend, a storyteller, a joke teller and a straight shooter. They hit it off right away. They both valued hard work and just had a huge respect for each other.”
The largest portion of Pickens’ legacy gift, US$9.25 million, will launch a new endowed fund to support recruitment and education of trainees and early career investigators in order to promote leading-edge neuroscience research.
“This program will bring together a diverse group of experts and trainees in pursuit of a common goal: the discovery and development of new, improved ways to prevent, detect and treat neurological and mental health conditions,” says HBI Director Dr. David Park, PhD. “It will support fellowships and scholarships for promising trainees including international trainees, attracting brilliant young minds to HBI to become tomorrow’s neuroscience research leaders.”
Another US$2.25 million from the gift will help power Calgary-grown entrepreneurship and innovation at the HBI through the launch of a new UCeed fund in neurosciences, managed by Innovate Calgary, the university’s knowledge-transfer and business incubator. UCeed funds, trains, mentors and supports startup companies during the critical transitional stage between innovation-demonstration and commercialization. Since launching in 2020, UCeed has helped more than 40 startups, including companies that emerged from HBI laboratories such as Zymedine, Fluid Biomed and Circle Neurovascular Imaging.
The remaining US$1 million will support the Rebecca Hotchkiss International Scholar Exchange (RHISE). First created in 2011 to honour Rebecca, RHISE provides an opportunity to bring scholars and renowned neuroscientists to Calgary and sends HBI’s top researchers around the globe to share with and learn from the best.
A US$12.5-million injection of funding from the late American philanthropist and energy industry giant T. Boone Pickens, inspired by his longtime friendship with Hotchkiss Brain Institute founding donor Harley Hotchkiss, will be used to recruit and train emerging neuroscience research leaders and invest in the commercialization of discoveries in neurosciences, all with the goal of improving brain and mental health for millions of people around the world.
Mia Sosiak and Haley Martin
Passion for medical philanthropy
Pickens and Hotchkiss remained friends throughout their lives, visiting each other often in Calgary and Dallas. They shared a passion for medical philanthropy. Hotchkiss’s support led to the founding of the HBI in 2004; Pickens made extensive contributions to health and education across the U.S., giving away more than US$1 billion of his wealth through philanthropy. This included a gift to the Baylor Scott & White T. Boone Pickens Cancer Hospital in Dallas, Tx., where Hotchkiss received experimental cancer treatment before his passing in 2011.
Pickens himself passed away in 2019, with his gift to HBI being realized earlier this year. The T. Boone Pickens Foundation worked with HBI and UCalgary to determine the best way to allocate the legacy gift, ensuring the donation would benefit the greatest needs. Rosser says:
“If he were with us today, I know what Boone would say. He would say, ‘Job well done, but the job is not done.’ He would hope this gift is the seed that got planted and that others will step forward and give to take it all to new levels.”
The university is recognizing the legacy gift and the friendship between Pickens and Hotchkiss with signage at the Cumming School of Medicine.
David Park is a professor in the departments of Clinical Neurosciences and Cell Biology and Anatomy at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) at the University of Calgary, and director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the CSM.
Brain and Mental Health Strategy (BMH)
Led by the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary, the BMH Strategy explores an improved understanding of the brain and nervous system and new treatments for neurological and mental health disorders, aimed at improving quality of life and patient care. Learn more about the HBI.