Ted Stanley, a billionaire businessman and philanthropist who donated more than $825 million to support research on mental illness, has died at his home in Connecticut. He was 85.
Stanley’s 2014 donation of $650 million to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard was billed as “the largest ever donation toward psychiatric research.”
At the time, WBUR’s Curt Nickisch reported that Stanley’s donation to find and treat the genetic underpinnings of mental illness had a personal side: Stanley’s son, Jonathan, suffered from bipolar disorder.
Here’s a bit of Nickisch’s story:
CURT NICKISCH: Ted Stanley founded a company whose first product was a series of medals commemorating the biggest scientific achievement of its time – the moon landing in 1969. While his collectibles business grew, his son Jonathan Stanley grew up a normal Connecticut kid, until, at age 19, Jonathan came down with bipolar disorder with psychosis, which got worse over the next three years.
JONATHAN STANLEY: We’ll call it the epiphany from my dad’s standpoint at least. I went three days straight running through the streets of New York – no food, no water, no money, running from secret agents. And not surprisingly – after I stripped naked in a deli – ended up in a psychiatric facility.
NICKISCH: Jonathan was a college junior.
J. STANLEY: My dad came to visit and got to see his beloved son in a straitjacket.
NICKISCH: The Stanleys were lucky. Jonathan responded well to the drug lithium. He went on to graduate from college and then law school too. Meanwhile, his father had met other fathers whose sons did not respond to treatment – other families who had to keep living with uncontrolled mental illness. Ted Stanley says that gave him a focus for his philanthropy.
TED STANLEY: There was something out there that our son could take and it made the problem go away. And I’d like to see that happen for a lot of other people and that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.
NICKISCH: The $650 million donation represents the bulk of his fortune. The Broad Institute is a partnership of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Harvard’s five teaching hospitals. Its head, Eric Lander, wants to begin using Ted Stanley’s money to catalog all the genetic variations that contribute to severe psychiatric disorders. He says the Broad has already collected the DNA from 100,000 psychiatric patients.