San Diego Business Journal

Darlene Shiley, a leading San Diego philanthropist, is donating $20 million to the University of San Diego to establish the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering.

“This is another in a series of very transformative gifts from the Shileys, and Mrs. Shiley,” said USD President Mary E. Lyons. “We’re going to have our own freestanding School of Engineering.”

The gift will provide USD with the money to grow its small engineering department into a freestanding school with the hiring of a dean, improvements to classroom and research space. It will also provide some student scholarships.

“I’m doing this because my late husband, Donald, was, at his core, an engineer whose work helped save the lives of 400,000 people,” Shiley said. “I’d like to see USD turn out more engineers like him.”

Donald Shiley invented heart valves in the 1970s in his garage, doing some of the lathe work himself in his shop. His work and subsequent development gained broad acceptance in the 1970s, profoundly changing heart care, and making him one of the first bioengineers. He graduated from the University of Portland, and the Shiley family has contributed more than $20 million to its engineering school.

Shiley has also recently established the Darlene Marcos Shiley Education Award in conjunction with the San Diego Business Journal. The award recognizes outstanding education work done by female education leaders, and will be presented to President Lyons at the Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business event Nov. 6.

The USD undergraduate engineering program currently has more than 350 students. US News and World Report ranked USD’s program 25th best in the country among engineering schools where the highest degree is a bachelor’s or master’s degree. USD doesn’t have plans to introduce a doctoral program, or to significantly increase its undergraduate enrollment. “Quality over quantity is what we’re focused on,” Lyons said.

The latest gift makes Darlene Shiley and her husband Donald, who died in 2010, USD’s second largest benefactor in university history.

“My husband said that his entire estate should go to charity, and I am going to see that that gets done,” she said. “The Engineering Department at USD is already well regarded. I am proud that many veterans are enrolled in the program. And the university has been good in working with donors. I am happy to give to USD.”