February 11, 2008

A Gift from the Heart

By Lorena Ruggero

Darlene Shiley is giving new meaning to a gift from the heart by donating $1.25 million in her husband's name to San Diego State University for heart disease research.

Darlene and Donald Shiley
Darlene & Donald Shiley

The gift will fund the Donald P. Shiley Center for Cardiovascular Research, which will be housed on the third floor of the SDSU BioScience Center, and will honor Donald's contributions to the field.

"As a product of the California State University system myself, I'm very aware of the fact that San Diego State needs private support in order to produce the caliber of graduates capable of doing the kind of amazing work my husband did during his career," Darlene said. "I'm incredibly proud of him."

About the Shileys

Donald, an entrepreneurial and innovative engineer, patented four of his creations, including the Bjork-Shiley heart valve, which revolutionized heart surgery in the 1970s. He also designed numerous other medical devices, including an endotracheal tube used to maintain the airway in unconscious patients, as well as developed an aircraft fuel booster pump used by the U.S. military.

"Donald's development of the tilting-disc artificial heart valve was an innovative response to a very real need in the cardiovascular field," said Dr. Roberta Gottlieb, director of the SDSU BioScience Center and Frederick G. Henry Chair in the Life Sciences. "The BioScience Center intends to develop creative responses just like his to address today's pressing health concerns."

Lion in Winter
Lion in Winter

Darlene and Donald Shiley, who have been married for nearly 30 years, are longtime benefactors to the San Diego region, funding causes close to their hearts, including the sciences and the arts. Darlene, originally a biology major at San Jose State University, met Donald when she starred in a theatrical production of "The Lion in Winter."