The "Give Back" Philosophy
Both Dr. William Worrall Mayo and his wife, Louise Abigail Wright, shared a broad view of charity and an awareness of social obligation. She believed that "life is not a question of what others owe to us, but of what we owe to others."
As the Mayo medical practice began to thrive, this sense of responsibility to others and to the future of medicine became the foundation of a remarkable commitment on the part of the Mayo sons, Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo. In fact, the brothers decided to give away their combined assets not once, but twice. First, to the University of Minnesota to establish a graduate school of medicine and a few years later to establish what later became the Mayo Clinic Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that operates Mayo Clinic.
Beginning in the early 1890s, the brothers decided to save a portion of their earnings with the idea that the funds would be used to advance medical education and research.
"The plan was to put aside from our earnings any sums in excess of what might be called a reasonable return for the work accomplished," Dr. Will Mayo explained in a letter written in 1934.
The money had "come from the sick, and we believed that it ought to return to the sick in the form of advanced medical education ... and research," he said. "The people's money, of which we have been the moral custodians, is being irrevocably returned to the people from whom it came."