Donation to fund new brain studies building

One family is changing the study of neuroscience at USC.

Trustee David Dornsife and his wife Dana have donated a total of $21 million to neuroscience endeavors at USC. Most recently, they donated $6 million to the Brain and Creativity Institute, a research program within the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.

The donation will be used to fund a new building for the institute. The building will be about 12,000 square feet and is being designed by Michael Maltzan, one of the architects who helped design the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It will let the institute house all the researchers’ resources in one location for the first time.

“Their latest gift will create a state-of-the-art facility for the Brain and Creativity Institute, including an auditorium that can be used for academic purposes and as a performance space,” said Howard Gillman, dean of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences. “This is important, given the special nature of the scientific work being done at the institute.”

The new facility will be located next to the Dana and David Dornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center and will become a place for research in early brain development, emotions, consciousness, aging, education and learning. The building will offer new laboratory space, a conference center and a state-of-the-art auditorium.

Researchers who work at the Brain and Creativity Institute said they hope the new building will facilitate collaboration and communication.

“I’m hoping the facility will have a new space or conference area for us to perform our psychophysiology tests,” said Savio Wong, a postdoctoral research associate. “It would be very convenient to have the new facility next to the imaging center so we don’t have to travel very far to communicate with other researchers.”

Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, assistant professor of psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute, echoed this sentiment. “The fact that the facility will foster a group of scholars from biological, socio-cultural and psychological aspects is a unique endeavor that will bring new ideas to the institute in the future.”

This is not the first time the Dornsifes have donated to brain research at USC.

The Dornsifes have had a significant impact on the university, beginning with David’s parents, Harold and Ester Dornsife, who were generous USC alumni contributors.

“In the 1980s, USC wanted to ensure that we were on the cutting edge of research in the evolving field of neuroscience,” Gillman said. “We were successful in this regard because of the support of people such as Harold and Ester Dornsife, whose previous contributions to the Seeley G. Mudd Building helped create a facility that enhanced science education at USC, and whose commitment to neuroscience led to the construction of the Hedco Neuroscience Building.”

David and Dana Dornsife endowed two chairs in memory of Harold and Ester and donated a lead gift to establish the Dana and David Dornsife Cognitive Neuroscience Imaging Center in the USC College.

David Dornsife has served on the Board of Trustees since 2002. He is the chairman of the board of the Herrick Corporation and the GILLIG Corporation. He is chairman of the board of the USC Brain and Creativity Institute and a 1965 graduate of the Marshall School of Business at USC.

Dana Dornsife is the co-founder of Axiom Design, Inc., a lighting design and home automation consulting firm. She is on the Board of Directors of Global Healing, which provides modern health care in developing countries, and on the board of the USC-Huntington Institute for Advanced Studies.