The San Diego Symphony has announced that it will receive a $100 million gift from Irwin Jacobs, the co-founder and CEO of wireless technology company Qualcomm Inc., and his wife Joan, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The gift is the largest individual donation ever made to a symphony orchestra in the United States and will provide financial stability to the San Diego Symphony, which emerged from bankruptcy in 1998.
The gift surpasses the $36 million that was given in 1996 to the Miami New World Symphony, then the largest individual contribution to an orchestra in the U.S. The Jacobses have been longtime supporters of the symphony and donated $500,000 to it in 1993 to make acoustical improvements to Copley Symphony Hall, the orchestra's home in downtown San Diego. Last fall, an additional contribution from the couple made it possible for the organization's management to sign five-year contracts with musicians.
The donation kicks off the 92-year-old symphony's campaign to raise $200 million, which would catapult its endowment into the top ten of U.S. orchestras. The symphony's current endowment is only $1 million, compared with the New York Philharmonic's $205 million endowment, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's $199 million, and the San Francisco Symphony's $186 million. According to the New York City-based American Symphony Orchestra League, an orchestra typically earns about 13 percent of its annual income from its endowment. The San Diego Symphony, whose annual budget is about $8 million, earns less than 1 percent of its annual income from its endowment.
"If an orchestra does not have an endowment, it is living in a constant state of anxiety," said Jack Wheaton, president of Local 325 of the American Federation of Musicians of San Diego County, which represents symphony musicians. "Now the San Diego Symphony will be a stable institution at long last."