In 2001, Mayo Clinic received a transformative jolt of integrative energy at a fortuitous moment. The institution was about to celebrate the opening of the 21-story Gonda Building. What a Minnesota news account called a “transformative project” was funded originally with a $45-million bequest from Southern Californians Leslie and Susan Gonda. Their daughter, Lucy Gonda, then an activist and philanthropist in the emerging integrative medicine field, recognized an opportunity. There would likely be no better time to stretch herself for her most significant integrative grant. She piggy-backed onto the celebration of her parents’ gift to throw in the spotlight a struggling, nearly invisible integrative medicine operation. This article examines what has been built since the injection from the “god-mother of integrative medicine at Mayo.”
The George family name has been linked symbiotically to the growth of integrative health and medicine in the United States for 20 years. When a group of philanthropists met with a set of integrative academics at the Miraval Resort in 1999 and then again in 2001 in what would become the immensely influential Bravewell Collaborative, Penny and Bill George had their hands on the wheel. At Allina Health inpatient-outpatient integrative health program in their home city of Minneapolis they intentionally spawned methods and data that would guide others through $30-million pouring on the coal. The action of the Georges and the George Family Foundation intentionally reverberated nationally. Where they choose to invest is always of interest and their strategy as a family foundation has caught the attention of the national philanthropic community.