Hansjorg Wyss -- Biography
Working for the Colorado Highway Department as a student in 1958, Hansjörg Wyss developed a lifelong love for the Rocky Mountains. Climbing and hiking in America's national parks and public lands, he grew to admire a uniquely American idea: that a nation's iconic landscapes should be protected for everyone to experience and explore. A native of Switzerland who now lives in Wilson, Wyoming, Mr. Wyss first experiences in the West drew him back to the United States to attend the Harvard School of Business, from which he graduated in 1965. With his American education and passion for discovery, he started a successful medical research and design company, headquartered in West Chester, Pennsylvania, whose products have helped millions of patients recover from skeletal and soft tissue trauma and injuries.
Grateful for the opportunities the United States, its lands, and the world have afforded him, Mr. Wyss believes he has a duty to repay his good fortune through philanthropic endeavors that expand the reach of human possibility and compassion. Practical and innovative by nature, Mr. Wyss's philanthropy fosters new ideas, new tools, and new collaborations in areas from medicine, education and the arts to economic opportunity, conflict resolution, and land conservation.
- Land Conservation. In 1998, Mr. Wyss established the Wyss Foundation to help communities, land trusts, and landowners forge new partnerships and implement innovative strategies to protect some of the country's most iconic landscapes – from Montana's Crown of the Continent to the Wyoming Range – and to ensure they remain open and accessible to all. In 2010, Mr. Wyss's contributions enabled the transfer of 310,000 acres of former Plum Creek timber land to the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Montana; it is among the largest private conservation purchases in American history. More recently, the Foundation partnered with local communities and leaders to secure the protection of more than 58,000 acres in Wyoming's Hoback Basin for hunting, fishing, hiking, and recreation. All together, the Wyss Foundation has invested more than $175 million to help local communities, land trusts and non-profit partners conserve nearly 14 million acres in the West for future generations to explore and enjoy.
- Medicine. Building on the contributions of his company, Synthes Inc., to trauma medicine, Mr. Wyss's philanthropy has helped researchers and surgeons develop and apply ground-breaking new technologies to help patients recover from musculoskeletal injuries. In 2009, he established the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. The $125 million donation was the largest in Harvard's history. Mr. Wyss has also established endowed chairs in medicine and supports research, education, training at a wide range of universities and hospitals, including Clemson University, the University of Washington, the University of Mississippi, the University of Maryland, the University of South Alabama, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Mr. Wyss helped establish the AO Foundation, a medically guided nonprofit led by an international group of surgeons who specialize in the treatment of trauma and disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
- Economic Opportunity, Justice, and Conflict Resolution. Mr. Wyss believes that to fulfill our potential as a society, we must always work to reduce the threat of war and conflict, exhibit compassion to those in need, and provide justice and opportunity for all. His philanthropy supports results-focused initiatives in areas from hunger prevention and basic health services to domestic violence counseling and the just treatment of refugees and immigrants. In 2009, Mr. Wyss helped found PeaceNexus, a non-profit foundation that brings together and advises government institutions, non-governmental organizations, and businesses to expand peacebuilding capacity in conflict areas around the world.
- Education and the Arts. Mr. Wyss's philanthropy provides scholarships and fellowships in conservation, music, medicine, business and the arts at institutions around the world, including in Africa, Europe, and the United States. With a 2004 donation from Mr. Wyss, the Harvard Business School created the Wyss Doctoral Endowment program that provides awards for innovative dissertation research, fellowships for doctoral students, field research, and course development. Mr. Wyss supported the development of environmental management cases for Harvard's MBA Program and was integral to the development of its social enterprise program. His significant contributions to the Beyeler Foundation have helped conserve and display some of the world's most important pieces of modern art.