Tradition & Heritage Timeline Artifacts  
The Origins of the Mayo Foundation
Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo
Origins of Mayo Foundation

In a series of steps beginning in 1915, the Mayo brothers helped develop America's first graduate education program in clinical medicine and established what has become Mayo Foundation. The graduate program initially was affiliated with the University of Minnesota, but later it became the Mayo School of Graduate Education. The Mayo brothers endowed the school with $1.5 million from their accumulated earnings and investments, and later an additional $500,000.

Four years later, the Mayo brothers decided to transfer the assets of their private medical practice to a not-for-profit organization.

Remarkably, the Mayos began crafting their vision as young men. Dr. Will was 33 and Dr. Charlie was 29 when they first determined to "do something for the sick." The plan meant sacrifice -- they made their gift during the height of their careers, when each had a family to support. And they had not inherited or married into wealth.

On Oct. 8, 1919, Drs. Will and Charlie signed the deed of gift that conveyed all of the physical properties and assets of Mayo Clinic to Mayo Properties Association. That carefully worked out agreement remains today. The name Mayo Properties Association was later shortened to Mayo Association, and, in 1964, changed to Mayo Foundation.

Their decision not only meant sacrifice on the part of the Mayo family, but also affected the physicians who practiced medicine with the Mayo brothers. Transfer from a private practice into a not-for-profit organization meant financial sacrifice for the partners as well.

The decision was controversial. It initially divided the Mayo Clinic staff and even split the Mayo family. Yet the Mayo brothers prevailed: all staff members went on salary; proceeds after expenses were reinvested in medical education and research; and assets were held by the foundation.

Decades later, Dr. Charlie's son, Dr. Charles W. (Chuck) Mayo, wrote:

"I've realized many times what a masterful piece of forethought is represented by that agreement. It means that I and my children don't own the Clinic, or any part of it, so as a principal victim I am in a good position to say how much I admire it."

The "Give Back" Philosophy To Heal the Sick and Advance the Science

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