Philanthropy

Billy Wilder Estate Gives $11 Million to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (Exclusive)

The majority of the money provided by the late director and his wife Audrey, who died in June, will go toward neurosurgery programming at the renowned pediatric institution.

The estate of the late, Oscar-winning director Billy Wilder and his wife Audrey has bestowed $11 million on Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in Hollywood. Their family trust, represented by Beverly Hills law firm Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman, informed the hospital of the gift in July, but CHLA chief of development DeAnn Marshall only learned of its magnitude on Dec. 6. It’s among the largest such bestowals in the institution’s history.

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In honor of the donation, the hospital will name a new $5 million endowed chair in the Division of Neurosurgery after the couple. $3 million will go toward general neurosurgical research and care under department head Dr. Mark Krieger. In addition, $1.5 million will be distributed to an endowed chair at the hospital’s recently established inter-departmental Neuro-Oncology Program under the direction of Dr. Jonathan Finlay, director of the hospital’s Neural Tumors Program within its Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases. The remainder of the funds is earmarked for rheumatology and other areas.

“This generous and amazing gift will impact the lives and future treatment of children diagnosed with life-threatening and often devastating diagnoses,” the hospital’s CEO, Richard D. Cordova, said in a statement. Added Krieger: “We will support outstanding research scientists working to find cures for children diagnosed with brain tumors here at Children’s Hospital and beyond.”

The acclaimed, Austrian-born Billy Wilder is responsible for noir classics Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard, as well as legendary comedies like The Seven-Year Itch, Some Like It Hot and The Apartment. He received the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986 and, two years later, the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award during the Oscars.

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Audrey Wilder – a singer-turned-Paramount contract player who died this past June at 89 and was married to her husband for 53 years until his own death a decade ago at 95 –previously donated $5 million to the Hammer Museum in Westwood, which subsequently unveiled its Billy Wilder Theater. During their life together, they were longtime financial supporters of the hospital.

CHLA is currently running its Holiday of Hope dollar-for-dollar matching challenge, ending Dec. 31. The goal is $200,000.

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