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By Pamela Murphy
Investing is about more than just money. Often it involves matters of the heart. We invest to make a difference in our own futures and for the ones we love. At American Century Investments®, we know it's possible to also make a difference in the lives of millions of people. We live it every day. For us, the idea of investing with heart started with a love story.
American Century Investments' founder, the late James E. "Jim" Stowers Jr., always knew his life would be about helping people. Fortunately for him, the woman he loved and married, Virginia, held the same passion. Early on, Jim pursued medical school. Virginia became a registered nurse. But life can change course, and amazingly enough, also come full circle.
While Virginia pursued her successful nursing career, Jim decided the medical field was not for him (not yet anyway). As the two started growing their family, Jim set off on a course in the mutual fund business. Later, he struck out on his own. That decision lead him to start American Century in 1958, then called 20th Century Investors, Inc. It began with two funds, three employees, 24 clients and $100,000 in borrowed seed money. His goal? To help people become financially independent.
Jim's belief that the firm would be successful if he helped others become successful worked. During the next four decades, American Century's growth took off with new funds, hundreds of thousands of investors and billions in assets managed. However, amid phenomenal success, life and family matters still find their way to the forefront. That was true for the Stowerses.
Both faced serious diagnoses—first Jim with prostate cancer, then later Virginia, with breast cancer. Each was successfully treated, but the experiences reignited their passion for helping people. It wasn't long afterward that they decided to do something about it in a big way.
As cancer survivors, Jim and Virginia knew the fear and hopelessness that come with a life-threatening disease. They were inspired to make a difference in the lives people affected by cancer and other diseases. The result was their founding of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in the mid-1990s.
Jim and Virginia's vision for the Institute was to give hope to millions of people through research and biomedical science. That would be accomplished by investigating and uncovering the causes, effects and treatments of gene-based diseases. Simply put, the mission of the Stowers Institute is to improve human health through basic scientific research.
Jim had always taken a long-term view of investments. He and Virginia took that same view for the Stowers Institute. While they had accumulated significant wealth over the years from American Century, they essentially gave it all away to secure the future of the Institute. Their endowment of $2.2 billion from their personal fortune ranks among the top philanthropic acts of our time. But it doesn't stop there.
The Stowers' gift included transferring the vast majority of their ownership stake in American Century to the Institute. That paved the way for ongoing funding through annual dividend payments. It also allows us and our clients to make a significant impact on others through the simple act of investing. Since 2000, American Century Investments' dividend payments have totaled $1.5 billion.
Today, the Stowers Institute is home to over 550 scientists and researchers, all working toward making a significant contribution to humanity through medical research. Expanding the understanding of the secrets of life and improving quality of life through innovation motivates their work. The Stowers' gift allows them to focus all their efforts on research, rather than grant writing and fund raising.
Jim and Virginia's story could have been like any other entrepreneur's. Fortunately, it led them back to their foundational desire to help others. The Stowers' giving lifestyle and the understanding that investing can have a greater purpose inspires us today. Those who invest with us also share in that purpose.
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The opinions expressed are those of American Century Investments (or the portfolio manager) and are no guarantee of the future performance of any American Century Investments' portfolio. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.