Doctor reveals gift to Johns Hopkins


Nineteen years ago, Dr. Solomon H. Snyder quietly made two large gifts to the Johns Hopkins neuroscience department he had created in 1980. In the years since, he's trickled additional money into an account held by the medical school.

Now, as he prepares to step down from the department chairmanship, Snyder is publicly revealing the gifts - totaling almost $30 million - that will be used by Hopkins scientists trying to unravel the brain's mysteries and treat its ills.

All told, the gifts represent the largest amount ever given by a faculty member to the medical school, a university spokesperson said.

"I feel like I've done my job - to develop the department and put it in good scientific shape," said Snyder, 66.

Hopkins president Dr. William R. Brody will formally announce the gift today during a banquet at the downtown Renaissance Hotel that concludes a daylong symposium honoring Snyder's leadership.

Called "Discovery and Hope: A Celebration of Brain Science," the symposium will bring together top scientists from around the country - including two Nobel laureates - to discuss findings relating to memory, smell, vision and other aspects of the nervous system.

Not the end

Brody, who was traveling yesterday, could not be reached for comment. Dr. Edward Miller, the medical school dean, said he was glad Hopkins is marking only a transition in leadership - not Snyder's retirement. Though he is stepping down as department chairman, Snyder said he intends to continue teaching and running his laboratory for years to come.

"Who knows what he and the members of his lab will discover in the coming years, or what his trainees and former students - and their trainees and students - will accomplish during their lifetimes?" Miller said.

"His impact, like those of so many other great Hopkins scientists and physicians, will be broad."

Gift details

In an interview, Snyder said that the 1986 gifts were stock in a biotech company, Nova Pharmaceuticals, which he had co-founded a few years earlier. Nova was purchased in 1992 by Scios, a California biotech company, which in turn was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 2003.

One of the 1986 gifts came in the form of a charitable trust that transferred the principal to the medical school while allowing his family to retain earnings. Upon the death of Snyder and his wife, Elaine, the department will control both principal and earnings.

The second part was an outright gift of stock, which the medical school eventually sold and put into an account that won't be touched until Snyder's retirement.

The third portion of Snyder's gift consists of money left over from grants given by drug companies and other private sources over the years. While grant recipients sometimes use surplus funds to purchase computers and other equipment, Snyder said he has set the money aside since the 1970s for the future use of the department.

Great potential

Without giving a precise breakdown, Snyder said the largest portion of the gift is the charitable trust, followed by the grant money.

How to use the money is a question that will fall to Snyder's successor, who is expected to be named later this year. The new chairman, for example, could dip into the funds to recruit new faculty or purchase a new machine "that could revolutionize research."

"It could cost in the millions," Snyder said. "It's possible we couldn't afford it before, then maybe we can."

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