Spotlight: Pamela and Edward Taft, Philanthropists

Countless lives in the community and around the world have been touched by Pamela and Edward (Ed) Taft, who have made philanthropy the cornerstone of their daily lives. By generously contributing to causes they are passionate about in multiple broad areas—education, the environment and healthcare, to name three—they continue to make a lasting and profound impact.

As recipients of their significant benevolence, the Fogarty Institute and El Camino Health have seen them rise to any occasion, with COVID-19 as their most recent inspiration.

Generosity provides needed support

Recently they donated $1 million to the El Camino Health Foundation to support its leadership in the COVID-19 fight. Gifted without stipulations, the money was designed to be used any way the foundation saw fit, which allowed them to support a variety of initiatives. For example, they helped provide funds so the YMCA could remain open to provide care for first responders’ children, thus enabling nurses and doctors to head to the front line to save patients.

The couple also boosted funding to the El Camino Health’s Taft Center for Clinical Research, the institution that has been participating in several clinical trials focused on COVID-19, involving both diagnostics and therapeutics. The Center has assumed an active role in the development of evidence around antibody plasma and antiviral drug treatment.

“With so many people suffering and businesses deeply impacted, we knew this was a vital, timely need. We feel very fortunate to be in a position to get involved in this way,” said Pamela.

Finding a life purpose

While philanthropic pursuits consume much of their attention, they both have had notable professional careers. Ed is a successful software technologist, with over 30 years at Adobe Systems. He joined the company when it was still a young startup; as the 16th employee, he helped develop the PostScript programming language and the now-ubiquitous PDF file format, a key technology that enabled desktop publishing. Pamela has a background in marketing and worked for Nortel Networks for 23 years.

The couple has been deeply involved in community philanthropy since they wed in 2003. In addition to El Camino Health, they donate funds to the Computer History Museum, the Los Altos History Museum, Pandemonium Aviaries and WomenSV, as well as nonprofits in the Boston area, where they both grew up. They have also supported the Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School in Honduras, which gives students the skills they need to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their home countries.

Driving innovation in healthcare through the Fogarty Institute

Currently a member of the El Camino Health Foundation Honorary Board, Pamela has been involved with the hospital since she first she moved to the Bay Area. She initially joined the gala committee as a way to become acquainted with others in the community, and that expanded to a nine-year stint on the board.

During her early years on the board, she noticed the name of Fred St Goar, vice chairman of the board at the FII, a name she recognized from her childhood. “I grew up with the St Goar family, and it was nice to make that initial first connection with someone we already knew.” Fred played a key role in connecting her with the Fogarty Institute, and she suggested to Ed that they make a donation as a way to meld their interest in healthcare with his technical background.

This eventually led to a $4 million gift to establish a clinical research program at the Fogarty Institute on the El Camino Health Mountain View campus with the aim to recruit and retain innovative surgeons. As the program became self-sustaining, it was integrated into the hospital and is now the Taft Center for Clinical Research. Subsequently, the remainder of the gift went toward the incubation program, which they viewed as an important way to educate future innovators.

The Tafts were early funders in the capital campaign to build the new main hospital, and their donations led to the arrival of the Da Vinci surgical robot, which put the hospital at the forefront of cutting-edge technology.

They later also gave to the Fulfilling the Promise initiative to support mental health and addiction services and funded a patient family residence project in the early stages of development.

“Pamela and Ed’s generosity is inspirational and we are tremendously grateful for their ongoing support of our programs, startups and vision,” said Andrew Cleeland. “We look forward to continue working in tandem to bring innovative solutions to patients.”

During their spare time, Pamela and Ed like to travel, including to locations where they support charities. They also recently made a substantial donation to the New England Aquarium in Boston, an organization that Ed’s family has been supporting since its inception in the 1960s. They realized that although it has been shut down due to COVID-19, it still needs to feed and care for its 20,000 animals, one more illustration of how the Tafts see a need and meet it.

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