With $10 million gift, Darlene Shiley building upon husband’s legacy at Shiley Eye Institute

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The gift will target expansion of the clinical space at Shiley Eye Institute, which opened 30 years ago with foundational support from the couple. It is part of a $27 million renovation and improvement project being undertaken by UC San Diego.

Philanthropist Darlene Shiley is marking the 30th anniversary of the Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health with a $10 million gift for the clinical space expansion of the Institute.

Specifically, the gift will finance the expansion of the clinical space and function of the Institute. Already an architectural landmark, the expansion will usher in a new era of vision care and research benefiting San Diego and beyond thanks to increased patient care capacity and expanded research infrastructure.

"Over the last three decades, Donald and I have supported the growth and excellence of the Shiley Eye Institute and her centers of care,” Shiley said in a release. “It was one of our first philanthropic projects we supported and were loyal to for the ‘long haul,’ as Donald would say. I now continue that legacy with pride, with the knowledge that we have improved and will continue to improve medical care and research that benefits all of us.”

With her late husband Donald, who passed away in 2010, Darlene Shiley has been a longtime supporter of UC San Diego across multiple endeavors, including the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, named in part to honor Darlene’s mother, Dee Marcos.

“I can’t emphasize enough how far-reaching the influence of Darlene and Donald Shiley has been on UC San Diego and elsewhere,” Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said in a statement. “Vision care, Alzheimer’s disease, and so many other important areas of research and care on our campus are sustained thanks to the Shileys’ generosity. It is remarkable to see the legacy of transformation they have made here.”

The latest gift will further burnish, in form and function, the Shileys’ vision of their eponymous eye institute, which has grown dramatically over the last three decades.

In 1983, the Department of Ophthalmology, part of UC San Diego Health, debuted an 800-square-foot, three-room clinic, progressing to a 3,000-square-foot trailer in 1985 and then the 1991 opening of the original $8 million Donald P. and Darlene V. Shiley Eye Center, under the leadership of Stuart I. Brown, MD.

Over the years, the Shiley family has donated more than $10 million for various clinical improvements, equipment, research and leadership chair funding. Additionally, other members of the family contributed to the Shiley Eye Institute as well, including support of the Low Vision Clinic and Shiley Eye Mobile clinic by granddaughter Patricia.

Today, the Shiley Eye Institute encompasses more than 91,000 square feet and three centers: the Anne F. and Abraham Ratner Children’s Eye Center, the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Retina Center, the Hamilton Glaucoma Center, and soon to be the Viterbi Vision Research Center. These facilities, with satellite operations at UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, handle more than 120,000 patient visits and perform more than 5,000 surgeries annually.

“Darlene Shiley’s support, and that of her late husband Donald, of UC San Diego Health has been instrumental in so many key moments for our institution, particularly in the Shiley Eye Institute,” said Patty Maysent, CEO of UC San Diego Health. “That first building really was the first major piece of our La Jolla medical campus, now a crown jewel in San Diego’s health care community. We are thrilled to know that this expanded delivery of care and UC San Diego Health history can continue to serve our community and inspire our world thanks to Darlene’s continued partnership.”

Led by Director Robert N. Weinreb, MD, who is also chair of the Viterbi Family Department of Ophthalmology at UC San Diego Health, Shiley Eye Institute boasts more than 40 physician-scientists, plus numerous visiting fellows and residents, with specialties ranging from cataract and corneal disorders to glaucoma to restorative vision therapies. The department is consistently a leader in research funding from the National Institutes of Health and claims 21 faculty members ranked among the top experts in their field by Expertscape.

Recent research has included the discovery of specific enzymes that may help create new therapies to protect and regrow neurons, a key to perhaps preventing degeneration of optic nerve cells in glaucoma and other eye conditions such as inherited retinal disease.

“I know I speak for every one of our faculty and staff when I say that the support of Darlene and Donald P. Shiley has been sustained, unwavering and key to our successes and leadership in ophthalmology and eye care,” Weinreb said in a statement. “Moreover, we are making discoveries here every day that translate into vision saving therapies that we hope will cure blindness; Darlene has been a central reason for this, too.”

Philanthropic gifts, like the $10 million gift from Darlene Shiley, contribute to the Campaign for UC San Diego — a university-wide comprehensive fundraising effort concluding in 2022.