The Radys: How a Powerful Donor Couple Has Been Giving in San Diego

UCSD is one of the many institutions in San Diego that have gotten Rady gifts. IMAGE: Michael Vi/SHUTTERSTOCK

UCSD is one of the many institutions in San Diego that have gotten Rady gifts. IMAGE: Michael Vi/SHUTTERSTOCK

Although Ernest and Evelyn Rady were born in Canada, they have called San Diego their home since 1966 and have shown strong commitment to the community. Ernest Rady is a self-made billionaire who amassed a fortune through banking, insurance, and investments. He founded and chaired the Insurance Company of the West (later known as WestCorp) that was bought out by Wachovia in 2006. Meanwhile, Evelyn Rady was a social worker for many years and dedicated her life to the needs of others. Since their retirement, the Radys’ philanthropy has been picking up, building on years of past giving. They’ve long been key donors to know in the San Diego area. Their even more important to know now.

The Radys Signed the Giving Pledge Last Year

In May 2018, Evelyn and Ernest Rady signed the Giving Pledge to publicly commit themselves to giving away the bulk of their wealth to charity. Upon signing the pledge, Ernest noted that he was most grateful for four things in life: living in San Diego, living in the U.S., the career he had, and good health.

“Because of these and other blessings, Evelyn and I believe it is important to share our good fortune with others, and we are pleased to join the Giving Pledge,” he wrote.

Also in 2018, Ernest Rady received the Horatio Alger Award, which recognizes individuals who have overcome significant challenges to achieve professional and personal success.

The Radys are giving record-setting grants.

Since signing the Giving Pledge, the Radys have been further ramping up their giving. The couple recently supported the San Diego Zoo with the largest challenge gift in the organization’s history. They pledged $20 million to the zoo, $15 million of which is part of a challenge that requires matching donations from other supporters. The zoo is renaming its Animal Ambassador program after the couple, and the challenge donations must be secured by June 30, 2020 to get the Radys’ full $15 million challenge match.

“Evelyn and I are proud of all that the San Diego Zoo does in our community,” said Ernest Rady. “It is a magnet for tourism and boosts the quality of life for all residents. By making this commitment, we want what is so special about the Zoo to be in place forever.”

The Rady couple established the Rady Family Foundation in 2002

The Radys aren’t newcomers to charitable giving, either. They established a private family foundation in their name back in 2002 to channel some of their grantmaking. This foundation has been focused on San Diego since inception.


Foundation grants often come in the form of challenge commitments, like the recent one to the San Diego Zoo. Another example is the $20 million that the Rady Family Foundation pledged to Jewish Family Service of San Diego last year. Of this amount, $17 million was offered in the form of one-to-one matching funds for the organization’s $37 million centennial campaign.

The Radys have broad interests in San Diego.

As individual donors and through their foundation, the Radys have supported a broad range of topics and interests in recent years. Overall, their giving is centered on education, human services, health, and Jewish organizations. They have given to the Salvation Army in San Diego to build new facilities for the homeless, to the University of California, San Diego to support the Rady School of Management, and to the Children’s Hospital of San Diego to establish a pediatric genomics institute. Many of the couple’s grants are well into the millions of dollars, and they are often among the largest grants recipients have ever received.

However, local nonprofits should know that the Rady Family Foundation does not have a website or provide a clear way to get in touch with grant-related inquiries.