UCSF Receives $500M Commitment from Helen Diller Foundation to Begin Planning New Hospital

Diller Family's Commitments to the University Now Stand at More Than $1.15 Billion

By Pete Farley

exterior of UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus Heights
The Helen Diller Foundation's $500 million commitment to UCSF will support planning for a new hospital at Parnassus Heights. In recognition of the extraordinary commitment, the complex has been renamed the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights. Photo by Noah Berger

UC San Francisco has received a $500 million commitment from the Helen Diller Foundation to support the planning, design and construction of a new, world-class hospital at the University’s historic Parnassus Heights campus, ensuring that UCSF can continue to provide premier care to patients in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond in the 21st century.

The commitment will allow UCSF to begin the extensive planning process for an architecturally outstanding, energy-efficient, seismically sound, and environmentally sustainable hospital, which is expected to open its doors to patients before 2030.

This incredible commitment sets the stage for a 21st century hospital that will play a critical role in patient care for San Franciscans and our community, as well as patients from around the nation and the globe who come to UCSF for care.

UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood

“This incredible commitment sets the stage for a 21st century hospital that will play a critical role in patient care for San Franciscans and our community, as well as patients from around the nation and the globe who come to UCSF for care, including highly specialized tertiary and quaternary care,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “Most importantly, it will support each patient’s experience at every step, providing a welcoming, patient-centered environment that promotes warmth and respect, upholding the highest standards of hospitality and patient safety, while also incorporating the latest technologies.”

The hospital will be a key part of UCSF Health, a growing regional health system that includes UCSF Medical Center, the top-ranked hospital in California and among the top five nationally, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The commitment brings total giving to UCSF by foundations established by the family of the late Helen Diller to more than $1.15 billion, and places the Bay Area family among a handful of American philanthropists who have made commitments of $1 billion or more to a single U.S. academic institution.

“Helen Diller appreciated UCSF’s excellence as one of the world’s leading health sciences universities,” said Phyllis Cook, executive officer of the Helen Diller Foundation. “She would be so proud of this commitment to clinical services in the Bay Area made in her memory. This special grant will help ensure that the outstanding doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals and researchers at Parnassus Heights will have an exceptional new space to support their important work, and that the patients will receive the best care in a warm, welcoming hospital for generations to come.”

Honoring the Memory of a Dedicated Philanthropist

In recognition of the Helen Diller Foundation’s commitment, the entire hospital and outpatient complex at Parnassus Heights, currently known as UCSF Medical Center at Parnassus Heights, will be immediately renamed the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights. UCSF Health also includes hospitals for women, children and cancer patients, as well as outpatient care, in San Francisco at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, children’s services in nearby Oakland and outpatient care at the Mount Zion campus.

This latest commitment in memory of Helen Diller, who died in 2015, reflects her lifetime of service as a philanthropist, advocate and mentor.

Born and raised in San Francisco, she met her husband, the late Sanford Diller, while both were attending UC Berkeley. Through their philanthropic foundations, the Diller family has supported Jewish causes, education, science and the arts, including Judaic studies programs at both UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz; an international Judaic teen leadership program; education from the K-12 to postgraduate levels; renovation of children’s parks in San Francisco; and San Francisco’s de Young Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Legion of Honor Museum.

Helen Diller

“The Diller family’s generous and sustained support of education, research, and patient care at UC San Francisco, and their steadfast backing of important programs at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, are a source of strength for the entire UC system,” said Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California. “The Dillers’ loyalty to the University of California will help ensure that this great public university system remains a global leader in science, health care and education for decades to come.”

A Commitment to UCSF’s Mission

The latest commitment, the third major contribution to UCSF by the Diller family over the past 15 years, strengthens the University’s ability to give back to the community through research discoveries, education of the next generation of healthcare professionals and scientists, and the advancement and delivery of world-class patient care.

A year ago, the Helen Diller Foundation committed $500 million to UCSF – $400 million for endowments to support faculty and professional students, and $100 million for a Chancellor’s Innovation Fund to support new ideas. In 2003, the Foundation made a $35 million foundational investment to support what is now the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, as well as to support prostate cancer research.

The Diller family has given more than $150 million to the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, supporting one of the nation's top programs for cancer research and care. Photo by Susan Merrell

Since then, the Foundation has made significant annual gifts in Helen Diller’s honor totaling more than $150 million, providing a permanent endowment for UCSF’s numerous programs in cancer research and care. Collectively, these programs have earned UCSF the National Cancer Institute’s highly selective “Comprehensive Cancer Center” designation, and are now known as the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“This extraordinary new commitment is the latest example of the Diller family’s generosity in support of UCSF’s core missions, in this case patient care,” said Hawgood. “We are enormously grateful to the Helen Diller Foundation for their support, and for their visionary philanthropy."

Building for Patient-Centered Care

Currently, patients on the Parnassus Heights campus are cared for at two landmark structures known as the Moffitt and Long Hospitals, as well as at an Ambulatory Care Center. Under state law, the inpatient activity in Moffitt Hospital, built in 1955, must be relocated by 2030 to conform with seismic code requirements. UCSF’s long-range development plan, completed in 2014, envisioned the construction of the new hospital on the site currently occupied by the Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, scheduled to move to 2130 Third St. in 2020.

“The Diller family’s tremendous support will enable us to accelerate the planning process for a hospital at Parnassus Heights that meets the high demand we experience at UCSF for the comprehensive care we provide,” said Mark R. Laret, president and CEO of UCSF Health, which includes UCSF Medical Center, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals and other partners and affiliates in the Bay Area.

vintage photo of UC Hospital exterior
The original UC Hospital, which opened in 1917, is shown from Parnassus Avenue circa 1920. Today it's known as UC Hall.
vintage photo of exterior of Moffitt Hospital construction
The Herbert C. Moffitt Hospital, part of the current UCSF Medical Center, under construction just east of UC Hospital in 1953.

“The new hospital will not only incorporate new technologies, including telemedicine, robotics and intra-operative imaging, but it will be embedded within a campus that includes leading clinicians and scientists focused on translating discoveries into treatments and cures for conditions ranging from diabetes to neurological diseases to organ failure,” Laret said. “We are thrilled with the Diller family’s vision of creating a tranquil and patient-centered environment that will best meet both the medical and non-medical needs of our patients, visitors and staff. We are enormously grateful.”

In 1999, UCSF began developing a second major campus in the Mission Bay region of San Francisco. That campus, now flourishing, doubled UCSF’s physical plant, allowing it to enhance its major enterprises in research and patient care. The University’s renewed focus on the medical center at Parnassus Heights follows the completion, in February 2015, of three hospitals at the Mission Bay campus: the UCSF Betty Irene Moore Women’s Hospital; UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco (UCSF BCH also includes a campus in Oakland); and the UCSF Bakar Cancer Hospital.

In addition to UCSF Medical Center, the Parnassus Heights campus, first established more than 120 years ago, is home to UCSF’s top-ranked schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy, and the site of dozens of laboratories that conduct world-class basic and clinical research. The new commitment from the Helen Diller Foundation, an extraordinary contribution to UCSF’s recently announced $5 billion fundraising campaign, comes as UCSF is just beginning a year-long planning process to revitalize these educational and research facilities on the Parnassus Heights campus.

“Helen Diller often said that ‘It’s never too late, too early, or too often to give back and make the world a better place,’” said Peter R. Carroll, MD, MPH, professor and chair of UCSF’s Department of Urology and a world-renowned physician who treats patients with prostate cancer at UCSF Medical Center.

“This remarkable commitment by the Helen Diller Foundation toward constructing a new hospital at Parnassus Heights sustains Helen’s unique spirit,” said Carroll, also co-chair of UCSF’s new fundraising campaign. “Some of the premier medical care in the world is delivered, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, at our Parnassus Heights campus, and with the exceptional support of the Diller family, we can ensure that all our clinical departments will continue to attract the highest caliber faculty in every medical specialty, and that we can also offer the best facilities for our patients well into this century.”

A Legacy of Care

In 2015, UCSF posthumously awarded Helen Diller the UCSF Medal, the University's highest honor. Watch the video dedication to Helen.

Helen Diller’s steadfast commitment to improve the lives and well-being of others through education, science and the arts, will be felt by Bay Area residents for many generations to come.

Helen valued and supported education at every level, from preschools to day schools to high schools to colleges – including UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz – to post-graduate education. In 2002, Helen made a $5 million gift to UC Berkeley to support a multidisciplinary visiting Israeli scholars program and fund fellowships and research grants in Jewish studies. At the time, it was the largest single gift supporting Jewish studies on that campus.

Helen was perhaps most proud of her Diller Teen Initiatives. Through the Diller Teen Fellows program, she created an international teen leadership program. Diller Fellows explore their collective Jewish identity as well as how they want to make their mark in the world.

The Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards program has recognized hundreds of teens for their outstanding volunteer service in the community for doing good work, near and far – spreading religious pluralism, constructing water wells in Africa, building soccer fields, and more.

As a San Francisco native, Helen took a keen interest in the children of the city. She revitalized children’s parks by supporting the reimagined designs of playgrounds in Dolores Park and the Civic Center.

She also valued the role of arts and culture in enriching human lives, and was an avid collector of contemporary art. Helen proudly funded the De Young Museum entrance courtyard, new galleries in the expanding San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and an annual Israel Antiquities Series at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.


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