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Southern Nevadans blessed with another philanthropist

Two years ago, Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation turned its $200 million in assets over to the UCLA Foundation to manage. The Lied Foundation, a mainstay in Las Vegas for four decades, is winding down. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, after serving as the major donor for The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, is also slowing down and fulfilling commitments.

The three foundations, which have been such tremendous anchors to the nonprofit world in Las Vegas, have spent millions here. The good they have done , much of it quietly, can’t really be totaled in dollars. What dollar value can you give to lives touched for the better?

But there’s a new face of philanthropy in town — Alfred E. Mann.

The $70 million he recently donated to the Nevada Community Foundation brought him, as well as the foundation, into the limelight.

I had never heard of Mann or the foundation until the Feb. 28 news release announcing his donation.

He declined an interview with me, but from interviews with the Los Angeles Times and the Chronicles of Philanthropy, as well as from the website of one of his foundations, a portrait emerged of a man whose fascination with aerospace and medical devices has made him rich and a man whose curiosity remains strong at 88.

Forbes Magazine in 2011 reported he was worth $1 billion. Or, as Mann himself said to the Los Angeles Times that year, “I’ve got more money than I can spend. For me, the satisfaction of changing someone’s life — indeed, even giving a person back a useful life — that’s what really drives me.”

He was raised in Portland, Ore. He moved to Los Angeles and attended UCLA, and he ultimately founded 17 aerospace and biomedical companies over the next 60 years without any formal business training. His degrees from UCLA are in physics, but his fortune comes from founding, then selling, his companies. His companies have created cochlear implants, cardiac pacemakers, insulin pumps and other medical devices.

Assessor’s records show he bought a small home in The Lakes in Las Vegas in 1988, and with his wife, Claude , has owned a $1.2 million home, also at The Lakes, since 2009.

In 2011, Business Week listed Mann as No. 18 on its list of Top 50 American Givers for giving $600 million from 2004 to 2008. He told the Times it was more like $500 million.

Communications consultant Sig Rogich has known Mann for about 10 years and described him as “very unassuming, a very quiet guy for being one of the visionaries in the medical world. He’s a great asset to the community.”

Mann is still working on medical solutions to help people. He is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval for breathing treatment for diabetes patients.

“He thinks he’s within a year of getting it approved by the FDA,” Rogich said. “He feels cautiously optimistic.

“He is driven by academics and health care. He thinks there should be a sharing of research. … He believes in collaboration.”

Don Snyder, a stalwart in the philanthropic community, has met Mann and said, “He created a presence, not overt, but when he would talk, people would listen.”

The Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Scientific Research was founded in 1986 and has more than $127 million in assets. The Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Biomedical Engineering was founded in 1988. He also has endowed an institute at the University of Southern California, where the assets exceed $153 million. Married four times and father of seven, Mann plans to leave much of his money to medical research.

Most Las Vegans wouldn’t recognize Alfred Mann, the guy who just gave Las Vegas’ philanthropic community the boost it needs as the assets of three other private foundations melt away.

Mann’s timing is positively perfect.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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