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St. Paul woman donates $60M to Mayo Clinic in honor of late husband

Philanthropist Helene Houle made the donation, with the Mayo naming one of its new towers after the late John Nasseff as a result.
Helene Houle and John Nasseff.

A donation of $60 million has been made to the Mayo Clinic by a St. Paul philanthropist in honor of her late husband.

The donation from Helene Houle was announced by the Mayo on Tuesday, and will see the Rochester hospital's newest patient bed tower at the Saint Marys Campus named after her husband, John Nasseff.

The Nasseff Tower will become the first building at the Saint Marys Campus to be named after a former Mayo patient.

Nasseff has been a regular contributor to the Mayo since his youngest son Arthur had life-saving surgery at Saint Marys in the 1960s at the age of 16.

Over the years, Nasseff and Houle have also made several gifts to honor Arthur Nasseff's surgeon, Burton Onofrio, M.D, and other doctors who have cared for the family over the years.

John Nasseff died in 2018 at the age of 93 and was described as a "rags-to-riches philanthropist" by the Pioneer Press. 

The son of Lebanese immigrants, he started off unloading boxcars at West Publishing and rose to become an executive, making an estimated $175 million when the company was bought by what is now Thomson Reuters in 1996 for $3.43 billion. 

As well as the Mayo, Nasseff was a regular donor to United Hospital, which is home to the John Nasseff Heart Center, the Nasseff Specialty Center, and the John Nasseff Neuroscience Specialty Clinic.

"John Nasseff and Helene Houle have had a significant impact on Mayo Clinic over the decades of their support," says Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., Mayo Clinic's president and CEO, in a statement. "We are incredibly grateful to Ms. Houle for this generous gift, and we cannot think of a more fitting way to honor Mr. Nasseff."

In the same statement, Houle said: "When I go to Mayo, I know I'm going to receive the best care possible. There's a special human touch that gives you confidence in knowing you are getting the answers you can trust."

Both Nasseff and Houle are being honored as "Philanthropic Partners," which is the "highest level of recognition for benefactors of the institution."

The Mayo Clinic recently announced it made $727 million profit during 2020 despite the pandemic.

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