FEATURE | Posted Dec. 15, 2016

Ernest's story

Grateful UC Davis Eye Center patient gives back to the community

Ernest E. Tschannen, 91, is a philanthropist and immigrant who amassed a fortune in U.S. real estate and has donated millions to the UC Davis Eye Center and other worthy causes throughout the Sacramento region.

An outdoor enthusiast who walks six miles a day, Tschannen noticed that he was losing some of his vision in 2000. His optometrist, who had prescribed eye drops to treat glaucoma, a condition commonly caused by an abnormally high pressure in the eye, referred him to UC Davis when the medications stopped working. Tschannen had surgery and advanced specialty care at UC Davis, which prevented further vision loss.

As a token of his gratitude and interest in helping others with glaucoma and other eye conditions that cause vision loss, Tschannen gave a historic $38.5 million total gift to UC Davis, which will transform eye care in the Sacramento region and beyond for generations to come.

Tschannen’s gift to UC Davis is the largest total donation from an individual in the entire 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 UC Davis Eye 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 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. He also received the Outstanding Benefactor of the Year award from the California Capital Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals on Nov. 16.

Related stories:

Sacramento donor makes $38.5 million gift to UC Davis Health System

A shared vision for better eye health


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