A $ 50 million donation to the Arizona State University will make the nursing college and support research into dementia.

Charlene and J. Orin Edson will donate $ 25 million to ASU's College of Nursing and Health Innovation and $ 25 million to the Biodesign Institute, the university announced Monday.

The gift, one of the largest in the university's history, will fund research and education on dementia causes and care.

The nursing college will become the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. A new center will be dubbed the Grace Center for Innovation in Education, named for Charlene's mother, who was a nurse.

"This is a tremendous $ 50 million investment in a very important area where we can be of greater service to the public," CrowTold The Republic.

The focus on dementia care and personal is the Edson family, although ASU declined to discuss that in detail.

"They have a personal involvement with dementia, thats all I can say," said Gretchen Buhlig, chief executive officer of the ASU Foundation.

The Edson gift marks another high-dollar get for the university, whose foundation has ramped up fundraising in recent years and received two big donations in the past 12 months that led to the renaming colleges.

Since their first donation in 2003, the Edsons have given more than $ 65 million to ASU, Buhlig said.

"We believe in ASU's interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to finding solutions," the family said in a statement. "We look forward to new people and ideas for those who love them."

Who are Charlene and J. Orin Edson?

The edsons declined an interview request through ASU but various stories published over the years provide a picture of who they are, where their philanthropic interests lie and how they spend their money.

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Orin Edson made his money boating, starting with a business he ran out of his garage in Washington state. In the 1950s, he built the Bayliner brand, a major producer of recreational boats.

According to his profile in Forbes, he sold Bayliner to the Brunswick Corporation in 1986 for $ 425 million. He invested that money into "stocks, bonds, Arizona real estate," according to Forbes.

He later bought a yacht-making company, Westport Yards, then sold it in 2014.

Forbes lists his net worth at $ 1.4 billion.

The Edsons listed their 164-foot yachts, complete with paid helicopter landing, for sale in 2015 for nearly $ 25 million, according to Puget Sound Business Journal article. That story mentions the Edsons had three homes, in Wyoming, Hawaii and Arizona, plus the yacht.

"It's a whole other world to fly off the boat and go on touring adventures," Orin Edson said at the time. "In a helicopter you get some interesting territory, where you can take small boats up rivers."

The Edsons also run the J Orin Edson Foundation, which supports the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Mayo Clinic and ASU Foundation, according to nonprofit filings.

They have supported animal-welfare related causes, like humane societies.

The couple started the Northwest Organization for Animal Help, an animal shelter in Everett, Washington. Charlene is chairman of the board.

The $ 50 million gift isn't the Edsons first donation to ASU, either.

They fund the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, a contest where students present ideas to try to win money.

Neither of the Edsons are ASU alums.

What effect will the money have?

The gift will allow ASU to bring people together from various disciplines to advance research and treatment and attempt to find treatment for dementia, Crow said. He said, "The money will be an overnight enhancement" in the university's potential to help people affected by the disease.

"This is going to allow us to jump to a world-class player," he said.

Joshua LaBaer, ​​the executive director of the Biodesign Institute, patients, their caregivers and families, said the gift will fund.

The Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation is seen here in Phoenix Ariz. on the on Fri, March 22, 2019. (Photo: Thomas Hawthorne / The Republic)

He said, "Research into dementia is already underway at the institute, but donation will help attract more talent to the university through new hires and an annual international symposium."

"You always get better by building a stronger team," LaBaer said.

He said, "outside the academic realm, the research funded by donation will lead to treatments that can help people affected by dementia." He said the money will help the next generation of scientists.

Judith Karshmer, the dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said the gift will allow the university to link research and treatment with a "bench to the bedside" approach.

The donation will help create a joint geriatric nurse practitioner / Ph.D. degree, making ASU one of the few programs nationally with such a program, Karshmer said.

"It will prepare the clinician-researcher," she said.

How the $ 50 million will be spent

The $ 50 million will support programs and professors in the nursing college and the Biodesign Institute.

Here's a breakdown of the money will be spent at the nursing college:

  • Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education: To provide hands-on experience through simulations that "advance academic practice."
  • Translational Nursing Science Program: Will be named for the Edsons and offer fellowships to help train clinician-researchers.
  • Chair in Dementia Translational Nursing Science: Named for the Edsons, people with dementia will work on treatments that will "improve resiliency and promote healthy lifestyles". The chair will also look for ways to help family caregivers.
  • Chair in Simulation Science: ASU as a leader in research for nursing education and health care simulations.
  • Director for Nursing Academic-Practice Partnerships: The position will carry the Edsons' name and collaborate with partners in the community to increase the number of new nurses trained at ASU
  • Scholarship: A new scholarship named for the Edsons will benefit students who are pursuing a joint geriatric nurse practitioner / PhD degree.

At the Biodesign Institute, the money will be spent as follows:

  • The Charlene and J. Orin Edson Initiative for Dementia Care and Solutions: Will support scientific understanding of the causes of dementia in hopes of early treatment, detection and prevention.
  • The Charlene and J. Orin Edson Distinguished Director: This person will lead research on dementia and dementia care.
  • Edson-named Program Director: The director will focus on research about patients and caregivers.
  • Edson Endowed Programmatic Fund: The fund will provide money for new projects at the Biodesign Institute.
  • Three Edson-named Postdoctoral Fellowships: These fellows will help train young scientists.
  • The Edson Symposium for Leadership in Neurodegenerative Science: An annual symposium will be hosted at the Biodesign Institute.

ASU’s spate of recent big donations

The big money gift comes as an ASU has seen an increase in high-dollar funders in the past year.

TO $ 30 million donation last year renamed the public service college for Mike and Cindy Watts. And the W.P. Carey Foundation donated another $ 25 million to the school earlier this year.

Buhlig, of the ASU Foundation, said the university has seen more investment in potential for donors.

But the road to these major donations took years to build, she said. And, like the Edsons and the Wattses, many of the university's donors aren't ASU alumni, she said.

"This fiscal year is definitely extraordinary. Weve had some very significant large gifts, ”she said.

Fundraising this fiscal year, which ended June 30, already has surpassed the university's record fundraising year, Crow said. That record was set last year. He is the author of the increase in fundraising to people 's growing recognition of the university's ability to help the community.

And don’t expect it to slow down.

Crow alluded to more renamed colleges based on major donations in the future, possibility within the next year.

"Not in the next 10 minutes, but the answer would be yes," he said.

ASU's largest gifts:

  • William Polk Carey: $ 50 million to name the W.P. Carey School of Business
  • Charlene and J. Orin Edson: $ 50 million to name the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and fund dementia-related research at the Biodesign Institute
  • Ira A. Fulton: $ 50 million to name the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
  • Julie Ann Wrigley: $ 50 million to name the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
  • Mike and Cindy Watts: $ 30 million to name the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions
  • T. Denny Sanford: $ 25 million to name the T. Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
  • Gary K. Herberger: $ 25 million to name the Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy
  • W.P. Carey Foundation: $ 25 million in further funding for the W.P. Carey School of Business

Source: Arizona State University

Reach reporter Rachel Leingang by email at rachel.leingang@gannett.com or by phone at 602-444-8157, or find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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