A Silicon Valley technology executive and his Stanford University faculty wife have pledged to give Stanford Hospital a $27.5 million gift to build a state-of-the-art emergency department when the university builds its new hospital. Marc Andreessen and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, made the commitment as their first philanthropy decision as a married couple, the university announced Friday.
Andreessen built two billion-dollar companies while his wife, a Stanford business school faculty member, has made a career of practicing venture philanthropy. Andreessen, 36, is a software engineer who developed the Mosaic, a widely used Web browser. He founded Netscape Communications when he was 23, sold it to America Online in 1998 for $4.2 billion in stock, and then founded Opsware, a data center automation company.
Arrillaga-Andreessen, 37, has master's degrees from Stanford in business, education and art history. She has been on the Stanford faculty since 2000.
"Everybody walks into the Emergency Department at some point and it may be 2 a.m.," Andreessen said. "This means we could have a big impact. The opportunity to build a new emergency services department that is world-class is enormous."
The university plans to replace Stanford Hospital with a new hospital by 2015. The plans for construction of the new hospital are underway.
"Both of us feel so strongly that, being part of the new generation in Silicon Valley, we have a responsibility to hopefully inspire other people in our age range to make significant philanthropic commitments," said Arrillaga-Andreessen, who grew up in Palo Alto.
"The night we met, philanthropy was a first topic of conversation. We became engaged a few months later. It's an absolute natural. It was one of the very first things we talked about when we became engaged: How can we as a couple effect the greatest social change?" she said.
She added that her ethics have been deeply grounded in the philanthropy of her parents, John Arrillaga and the late Frances C. Arrillaga. Andreessen also was raised with core beliefs in giving, but has only had the opportunity to act on a commitment to public service in the last 15 years, she said.
The couple plans to spend their lives committed to funding institutions and core services that are not necessarily the most transparent, but that touch everyone's lives. They chose health care, and in particular funding the Emergency Department at Stanford Medical Center, because it is a service that can make the difference between life and death, they said.
The gift will enable the hospital to build a department more than double the size of current facilities and expand its services and technologies to meet rapidly growing demand from patients. Stanford Hospital provides the only level-1 trauma center between San Francisco and San Jose. The Emergency Department will be equipped with a wide array of new technologies, including digital X-rays, ultrasound and other equipment for bedside diagnosis, new cardiac monitors and advanced methods for freeing up blocked airways. In addition, the department will acquire systems that will allow the medical team to rapidly communicate on critical patient issues and make it possible to track patients as they progress through the Emergency Department.
On an international scale, Stanford's state-of-the-art model can be a core resource for other emergency departments, the couple said.
"It's exciting to have a community impact that can be leveraged around the world," Andreessen added.
There is a much greater level of accountability in today's philanthropic investments, according to Arrillaga-Andreessen. In Silicon Valley, many individuals have contributed to tremendous change in society through their inventions. As a generation, many view for-profit investment as tantamount to social investment. They seek specific outcomes and specific returns based not on throwing money at a program, but on active involvement in analyzing the outcomes of their investments -- and learning from the successes and failures and where to make improvements, she said.
"It's not just about writing a check," she added.
For the first time in the country's history, younger generations have the wealth to invest in social change. For previous generations, people didn't express their philanthropy until they were in their 50s and older, when they were at the end of their careers, according to Arrillaga-Andreessen.
"We have an opportunity to get started at an earlier age -- and what an incredible experience," she said.
With giving at the foundation of their marriage, the couple -- who have been married one year and 39 days -- see a bright and fulfilling marriage ahead of them.
"I'm so madly in love with my husband. We're so blissfully in love. I cannot believe how much more extraordinary one year can be," she said.