The Score

Instant Endowment for San Diego

Add one nine-figure donation to a once-bankrupt symphony orchestra and stir. Voilà! A fully restored San Diego Symphony.

That's the recipe: as sweet, satisfying, and fail-safe as instant cocoa. Thanks to a $120 million gift from Joan and Irwin Jacobs, the San Diego Symphony-bankrupt in 1996 and re-started on a more modest footing in 1998-seems set to regain its former level of activity and more. The gift, $100 million of which is designated specifically for the orchestra's endowment, is the largest ever to an American orchestra from an individual donor. "For the first time in our 70-year history, the San Diego Symphony has a very firm financial base on which to plan the future," said Executive Director Doug Gerhart when news of the gift broke in January.

The Jacobs gift will come in two parts: $70 million distributed evenly over the next ten years, and $50 million as a bequest. The annual payments will bring the orchestra's endowment to a level among the twenty largest in the nation, and will also supply $2 million a year in general operating funds, boosting the budget by more than 20 percent. But that's just the beginning: Irwin Jacobs, who is CEO and chairman of the board of telecommunications giant Qualcomm, intends his family's largesse as "a catalyst for other major gifts," says Gerhart, adding that the donation kicked off a $200 million endowment campaign.

"We want to build a world-class orchestra here," Gerhart says. As the SDS searches for a new music director to succeed Jung-Ho Pak, it's hosting a few big-league candidates such as David Robertson, who led the orchestra late in 2001 to glowing reviews. Will a strong endowment help the search? Says Gerhart: "A landmark success like this makes us much more attractive."