Richard O. Jacobson has earned and given away his money very quietly. Jacobson built his wealth throughout his lifetime, starting with the founding of the Jacobson Warehouse Company in Des Moines, Iowa. He currently serves as the director of Heartland Express Inc. In 2011, he pledged $100 million to the Mayo Clinic to establish a proton beam therapy program for treating lung, breast, and prostate cancer. As big as this gift was, more Jacobson money for Mayo may yet be forthcoming.
When questioned in a news conference about his overwhelming generosity, Jacobson stated, "I've been very fortunate, made a lot of money, and I have no family. I always wanted to do something for Mayo Clinic." Jacobson's donation is the largest gift ever made to the Mayo Clinic by a living person. His motivation seems to have been built over a lifetime, as this quiet billionaire has been visiting the clinic as a patient and with family members since he was four. Notably, there is a multigenerational family connection: His grandfather was friends with Charles and William Mayo, whose practice was the seed of inspiration for the world-renowned clinic.
While this gift is Jacobson's largest to date, his philanthropy has been well established through support of education, youth entrepreneurship, and medical research efforts.
The proton beam therapy program is an innovative treatment that targets cancerous tumors without destroying the surrounding, healthy tissue. Jacobson's donations will help fund the construction of new proton beam therapy clinics in Rochester, Minnesota, and Phoenix, Arizona. The official groundbreaking occurred in September 2011, and although Mayo plans to treat patients at the new clinics by mid-2015 through 2016, they will not be fully operational until sometime in 2017.