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The Geffen Foundation: from Music money to Medical Research

I was looking for a colleagues work on cancer stem cells today in the internet. Found out that she now works at the David Geffen Medical School of UCLA. I got curious, since I red the name David Geffen already at a research institute in Tel Aviv. So this is what David Geffen, of whom I hardly knew anything untill today, did in his life (apart from founding some of the top centers of biomedical research).
He was born in 1943 as son of a poor tailors family, jewish emigrants from Europe who settled in Brooklyn. Young David attended a couple of colleges but always dropped out before graduation. When he seeked for a job in the then booming music- and entertainment industry, he falsified a letter that wrongly proofed that he graduated from UCLA (hic! This might be the reason for his later generosity in funding the UCLA David Geffen Medical School). This "degree" from UCLA now opened him the career at WMA, where big movie stars such as Chaplin, Clark Gable, Catherine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and music stars such as the Rolling stones, Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher were under contract. Later he began his own artists agency and the record label Asylum Records, where he was influential to the success of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jackson Browne and promoted the career of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, The Eagles and others. His next record company, Geffen Records, produced Donna Summer, Neil Young, Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel, Nirvana, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and many others. In the 80s, Geffen founded his own movie production and distribution company Geffen Pictures. It produced little gems of cinematography such as "Little Shop of Horrors", "Risky Business", "Beetlejuice", "After Hours", "Men Don't Leave", "M.Butterfly", "Interview with the Vampire", "The Butcher Boy", and (my alltime favorite): "Beavis and Butthead do America". From the money he made here, he co-funded Broadway musicals such as Dreamgirls and Cats. To make clear that Geffen was not simply the lucky guy to discovered a gold-mine for himself (in particular when together with Spielberg and J.Katzenberg he founded DreamWorks Studios), consider where he spend much of his income. He donated large parts of his wealth to organize the UCLA theater Geffen Playhouse. Millioans of $ went to Bill Clintons and Barack Obamas election campaigns and to stop the homo-phobic Proposition 8 in the Californian constituition. His most eminent donations, I think, went to medical research. His 200 mill gift to UCLA to found the medical school was the largest ever privat donation to medical schools in the US.

So I wrote this not to show another typical cases of the american dream to rise from rags to riches. Geffen was not seeking for the quick success and low-risk investments. He was always following a vision. He had an idea that came to him before it became common sense. This might be a common character among the Jews, that its better to sit down and make up your mind and don't go the easy track, but follow your own intention. I think because Jews over the centuries were so often discriminated from starting the easy careers (in gouvernmental administration, academia, army, owning agricultural ground), they developed already very early the skills of converting "crazy" ideas into the business of the future.
But when I said in my early comments above that they not always acted like philantrops, at least there was one big-business where Jews were under-represented: arms production. The entertainment industry and careers in academia obviously absorbed so many of them, that no Jews were left to work in the weapon industry. No point to be ashamed of, I would say.
(A debate on the jewish philantrophy with Bahmani is here)

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