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San Diego Philanthropist Conrad Prebys Dies

San Diego Philanthropist Conrad Prebys Dies


Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO, Scripps Health

John Rebelo, friend of Conrad Prebys


San Diego philanthropist Conrad Prebys, whose donations have supported major projects in San Diego, has died of cancer.

San Diego philanthropist Conrad Prebys, who gave millions of dollars to a variety of interests in the community — from the arts to science research and educational institutions — has died. He was 82.

Prebys died Sunday of cancer at Scripps Mercy Hospital, with his family by his side, according to a news release from Scripps Health.

“Born with a giving spirit, Conrad’s deep generosity has helped strengthen and enrich the community in many important ways, including health care, medical research, music, theater, youth services, and wildlife preservation,” a statement from his family said.

Prebys was a supporter of KPBS and the PBS Masterpiece Trust. The Masterpiece Trust is a fundraising initiative and partnership of PBS stations that supports the Masterpiece television series.

“KPBS is a favorite place for me and Debbie,” Prebys said in 2015. Debbie Turner is his life partner.

They were both inducted into the KPBS Hall of Fame in 2012.

Photo credit: Spark Photography

Debbie Turner and Conrad Prebys are pictured at the KPBS Celebrates Gala, May 4, 2013.

A billionaire, Prebys gave capital and operating gifts to Scripps Health; the Boys and Girls Clubs; the San Diego Zoo; the Old Globe Theatre; the UC San Diego Music Centre; the La Jolla Music Society; Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla and Orlando, Florida; the Salk Institute; Indiana University; San Diego State University; and the San Diego Museum of Art.

His name adorns many buildings throughout San Diego, including the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union at SDSU. He gave $20 million to the university for student scholarships.

His largest donation was made last year, when he gave $100 million to the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. The money was to help fast-track drug discovery and translate lab findings into real-world therapies.

Raised in a working-class neighborhood of South Bend, Indiana, Prebys developed a heart condition at the age of 8 that forced him to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle, so he learned to play piano and developed an appreciation of the arts.

He later graduated from Indiana University and made a fortune in real estate and construction.

"The entire Scripps Health family is deeply saddened by the loss of Conrad Prebys," a statement from the healthcare provider said. "It's impossible to overstate the important role that he played in supporting our organization and the entire San Diego region."

Prebys was "a dear friend and a steadfast supporter" of UC San Diego for many years, Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said.

"Conrad touched so many lives through his generosity and kindness, and has left a lasting impact on our campus, our community and our world," Khosla said.

"We will miss him immensely and cherish his legacy," the chancellor said. "From his support that created the Conrad Prebys Music Center at UC San Diego to his philanthropic gifts that benefited health sciences and many other fields and organizations, he improved the quality of life of our campus and community members and forever changed the landscape of San Diego."

Photo caption:

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

SDSU Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union Aug. 7, 2014.

SDSU President Elliot Hirshman said Prebys "touched and ennobled" everyone he met, adding his "contagious optimism and selfless generosity have forever changed our campus and the entire San Diego region."

"His name and his legacy will live on at San Diego State University in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union, the thousands of students who will receive Conrad Prebys' scholarships, the Conrad Prebys Center for Viromics Research and the Conrad Prebys Chair for Bio-medical Research," Hirshman said. "The entire San Diego State University community mourns the loss of a treasured friend and supporter."

San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria tweeted that he was deeply saddened by Prebys' death, calling him "a true gentleman" and "generous benefactor."

"Many of our civic treasures are better because of him," Gloria said.

He is survived by Turner. Services were not immediately announced.


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