Ernest E. Tschannen, whose historic $38.5 million total gift to UC Davis will transform eye care in the Sacramento region and beyond for generations to come, received the Outstanding Benefactor award Nov. 16 from the California Capital Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
A grateful patient, Tchannen first noticed his eyesight was failing in 2000. His optometrist referred him to UC Davis Eye Center, where he had surgery and advanced specialty care for glaucoma, a condition commonly caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye. Glaucoma is considered a silent disease, as damage to the optic nerve can be so gradual that a patient may not notice a change in vision until the condition is at an advanced stage.
Tschannen’s gift to UC Davis is the largest total donation from an individual in the university’s 108-year history. The donation enables the UC Davis Eye Center to pursue its vision of finding cures for blinding eye diseases. The funds will be used to expand research, teaching and patient-care services at the center and to build a new and larger facility on the UC Davis campus in Sacramento.
Born in 1925, Tschannen grew up in the small town of Aarwangen, Switzerland. He immigrated to Canada and then to the U.S. in the 1950s. He is a vegetarian who walks six miles every day and cherishes his time outdoors. He has contributed to other important initiatives in the Sacramento region, including the American River Parkway Foundation, the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway, California State University, Sacramento, and other organizations throughout Northern California and Nevada.
In 2016, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s declared Feb. 16 Ernest E. Tschannen Day to honor his generous support.