Highlighting Our Generous Donors

Our success has been made possible due to several generous individuals, foundations, and corporations. Here are just a few of their stories.

John A. Moran

Belief and Vision 


By John A. Moran

When Dr. Olson told me about his dream to carry out research that might someday restore vision to the blind, it brought to my mind stories from the Bible that my mother had read to me as a child.

As a little boy, I was particularly touched by the story of the blind beggar, the power of faith, and the miraculous restoration of his sight. One of the reasons the Moran Eye Center exists is because my mother planted within me a belief in miracles.

I’m reminded of the words of Helen Keller who said: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Even today, these many decades later, my vision of life’s possibilities is influenced by my mother’s love.

The story of the blind man transcends one man and his dream and hope for vision. It reminds us that as individuals we must never give up hope that we can accomplish things that were previously considered impossible. That irresistible sense of hope that exists in each of us can be felt in this new building, and in the hearts of those who will be caring for patients, and for those who are working to advance the science of human sight.

There are marvelous discoveries to be made in the science of eye care. I’m confident that the dedicated doctors, scientists, educators and their colleagues at the Moran Eye Center will uncover many of these mysteries and develop cures for blinding eye diseases.

Biographical Sketch

The vision for the first John A. Moran Eye Center became a reality as the result of a generous $3.5 million donation from University of Utah alumnus John Moran, coupled with many other gifts from patients, friends, donors, and organizations. He contributed $18 million to open the current, $54 million Moran Eye Center building in 2006.

A noted investor and philanthropist, he is the retired Chairman of the Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation, a private holding company with an international portfolio including businesses engaged in manufacturing, distribution, industrial and financial services, and real estate development. 

Before joining Dyson-Kissner-Moran in 1967, Moran was a Vice President of Blyth & Company Inc. investment bankers.

Born in Los Angeles on March 22, 1932, he graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. in banking and finance in 1954.

Moran spent three years in the U.S. Navy and served as an intelligence officer on the staff of the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet from 1955-1958.

A major contributor and fund-raiser for the Republican Party, Moran served as Chairman of the Republican National Finance Committee from 1993-1995. He subsequently became National Finance Chairman of the Dole for President Campaign and later served as co-chairman of the Republican Leadership Council of Washington, D.C.

In 2012, he received the Horatio Alger Award, which celebrates values including “personal initiative and perseverance, leadership and commitment to excellence, belief in the free-enterprise system and the importance of higher education, community service, and the vision and determination to achieve a better future.”

His long career also includes director, trustee and member positions of numerous organizations, companies, and institutions, including the National Advisory Council for the University of Utah, where he holds an honorary Doctorate of Law. He is a member of the Moran Eye Center Advisory Council.

Sam Skaggs

Dear Friend and Benefactor

In 2013, faculty, staff, and friends of the John A. Moran Eye Center lost a dear friend and generous benefactor in the passing of Sam Skaggs. Dr. Randall J Olson, Chair of Ophthalmology and CEO of the John A. Moran Eye Center, said this about Mr. Skaggs: “Sam Skaggs and John Moran have been special friends throughout their lives. With Sam’s passing, we all feel we’ve lost a friend. Not only was he a remarkable businessman, he was a dedicated husband and father. Sam and his dear wife Aline worked hard and saved their money to create a better world through philanthropy. We see these same principles mirrored in the lives of their children.”

Commitment to the Moran Eye Center

John A. Moran met Sam Skaggs in 1962 when Mr. Moran was a young investment banker just getting started. “Sam helped me complete my first financing transaction with the investment firm I joined after I’d been released from active duty in the navy,” Mr. Moran recalls fondly. “It meant a lot to me and boosted my confidence. I have never forgotten Sam’s belief in me and his longtime support. I consider him one of my dearest friends.”

Dr. Olson recalls a critical gift from the Skaggs family: “Two-and-a-half years after John Moran gave his lead gift toward the new 210,000-square-foot Moran Eye Center, Moran needed another major gift to begin construction. Sam Skaggs and The ALSAM Foundation stepped up with that second major gift, making it possible to construct our beautiful new eye center in 2006.”

The six-story L.S. and Aline W. Skaggs Research Pavilion at the Moran Eye Center unites more than 60 PhD vision researchers who were once scattered around the University of Utah Campus. It is also connected by bridges to our clinical facilities, symbolizing our desire to bring research discoveries to patient care as quickly as possible. These state-of-the-art research laboratories are helping to recruit top new scientists to Moran. Sam’s generosity is literally speeding up research that is bringing us closer to treatments and cures for vision loss.

The Philanthropy of Sam & Aline Skaggs

Sam and Aline Skaggs have bestowed a legacy of giving personally and through The ALSAM Foundation and other entities they founded over the past 65 years. They have given hundreds of millions of dollars to education, health care, and research by way of scholarships, the establishment or funding of many university and research centers, and the nation’s largest single parochial elementary and secondary complex, located in Salt Lake City.

Six major universities have named either their pharmacy school or a building housing their pharmacy school after Sam and Aline due to their generous funding. Mr. Skaggs gave one of the largest gifts ever made to medical research for the creation of the Skaggs Center for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute.

Many universities and colleges have recognized the important effect Sam Skaggs has had on education. As early as 1970, he received a citation from the University of Utah that captures his spirit of giving: “To Mr. L.S. Skaggs, Jr., distinguished native son of the West, dynamic personality, and capable administrator in the distribution of pharmaceuticals and health care needs, leader in the intricate and competitive world of business, friend of education and research as the key to our successful future.”

The crown jewel representing Sam Skaggs’ commitment to education, health care, and research at the University of Utah is the new L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy Research Institute, which connects to the older pharmacy building constructed in the 1950s to honor Sam’s father. The joining of two buildings into one great school demonstrates the father/son commitment to education over 60 years. We’re proud to say that John Moran was a key donor to the L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy building.

Sharon Steele-McGee

Philanthropic Game-Changer

A beloved friend of the Moran Eye Center, Sharon Steele-McGee has seen firsthand how research improves patient care.

Comparing her simple cataract surgery with her father’s cumbersome procedure and recovery decades ago, she determined her best philanthropic investment would be to advance eye research. As she watched friends adjust to life with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and learned that more and more baby boomers would be diagnosed with the disease, Sharon took action.

In 2009, she contributed significant funds to help recruit Dr. Gregory S. Hageman to Utah and establish a center for translational medicine (CTM) to accelerate the development of new AMD therapies. Since then, her support has been unwavering—she has committed more than $9 million to this critical cause. To honor her tremendous commitment, the CTM was renamed The Sharon Eccles Steele Center for Translational Medicine (SCTM).

A Legacy of Giving

Warm and compassionate, Sharon’s interest in giving back extends to friends far and wide, including her friends at Moran.

The connection began with the philanthropic legacy of her parents, Harold and Eleanore Steele, for whom the Harold and Eleanore Steele Corneal and Refractive Clinic at Moran is named. It has continued through her experiences as a patient and as an extraordinary ambassador for the center.

A Salt Lake City native and granddaughter of philanthropist Marriner S. Eccles, Sharon spends her summers in her home city. For the remainder of the year, she resides in Indian Wells, California, where she savors the other three seasons in the desert.

Over the years, she has shared her experiences and passion for the Moran Eye Center with prospective donors, hosted events on Moran’s behalf, and become a cherished member of the Moran family.

“My own experiences have given me a deeper understanding of what vision means to people, and my family’s legacies instilled the philosophy that you give back—and you give back to the people and places that you truly care about and were good to you. Moran is that place for me,” she says.

Turning Dreams Into Reality

“We are absolutely thrilled that the center now bears Sharon’s name,” says Dr. Hageman. “This gift makes all of us proud of what we are doing and encourages us to work even harder. I have been passionate about finding a cure for AMD for most of my career. Early on, I came to the realization that although I might direct an overall effort to find such a cure, one does not do this in a vacuum. The people who surround you—scientists, clinicians, bosses, friends, study patients, eye donors, volunteers, philanthropists, and many others—are the real game-changers who make it possible to turn dreams and goals into reality.”

Jon & Karen Huntsman

Envisioning a Future of Hope

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apostle David B. Haight was known and loved by members of his faith in his later years for his heartfelt, unscripted speeches.

They were, in part, due to his difficulty seeing words on a teleprompter or a page in front of him. Haight publicly shared his battle with declining eyesight due to age-related macular generation (AMD), noting at the church’s 2000 general conference that, “As my eyesight decreases, I think my vision improves—my vision of what lies ahead.”

His daughter and son-in-law, Karen and Jon Huntsman, wanted to create a future they knew he would have approved of—one that gives hope to people losing their vision to AMD. Karen Huntsman, along with Jon before his death in 2018, generously gifted $5 million to support AMD research at the Moran Eye Center.

“Moran is internationally recognized in this area, and they stand to impact so many people whose lives and families are drastically changed as this disease progresses,” said Karen Huntsman. “Now, more than ever, private funding is needed to support important medical research. We’re thankful we have the ability to do that.”

Sharing in a Mission

Characterized by a loss of central vision, AMD is the most prevalent cause of vision loss in adults over the age of 55 and is estimated to affect 196 million people by 2020. Caring donors like the Huntsmans stand to change the odds.

“We are so fortunate and grateful to have extraordinary people like the Huntsmans who truly share in our mission that no person with a blinding condition, eye disease, or visual impairment should be without hope, understanding, or treatment,” said Moran Eye Center CEO Randall J Olson, MD. “The significance of this commitment cannot be overstated. We are very excited about the trajectory of our recent research, and the generosity of donors like the Huntsmans will get us closer to the finish line.”

An Expanding Health Care Legacy

A gift supporting AMD research will establish another remarkable legacy for health care at the University of Utah associated with the Huntsman name, already known in connection with the world-class Huntsman Cancer Institute. It will also support what Haight had once imagined.

After receiving care from Dr. Olson, Elder Haight reflected on the institution’s future in 2004 by saying he imagined it might someday “be one of the world’s most precious gems.”

“We couldn’t agree more,” said Jon Huntsman at the time of the gift.

John & Marva Warnock

Finding Solutions

Adobe Systems Inc. founder and mathematician John E. Warnock, PhD, is no stranger to solving tough problems.

He’s known around the world for creating a way for people to exchange documents electronically—the now ubiquitous PDF, or portable document format. Even as an undergraduate at the University of Utah, Warnock developed a breakthrough algorithm that tells a computer how to render a complex image.

Now he and his wife, Marva, are joining efforts to find solutions to an even larger challenge: blinding diseases afflicting millions of people. The couple recently gifted $5 million to support ongoing research at the John A. Moran Eye Center.

A Dedication to Advancing Science

“It’s especially important to support research at its most fundamental scientific level, where discovery and understanding can build upon themselves until we are able to create solutions for some of the toughest eye diseases out there,” said Warnock. “I believe it’s possible, but only with support from those dedicated to advancing science.”

Marva Warnock, a former partner and graphic designer at Marsh Design in Palo Alto, California, is known not only for creating the iconic Adobe logo, but also as a designer for nonprofit organizations. She is a longtime supporter of civic engagement, human rights with a passionate interest in the rights of all people, the arts, and technology.

“Advances in technology, and science, have changed the way we live and the way we work,” she said. “Now I believe they will change health care, and the researchers at Moran are as close as anyone in the country to major breakthroughs. I can’t wait to see what happens in the coming years.”

Moran Eye Center CEO Randall J Olson, MD, shares the couple’s dedication to finding cures for diseases that ravage sight.

“Regardless of whether you’re in medicine or technology, discoveries are about persistence, about knowing that you’ve got a revolutionary idea and pursuing it,” said Olson. “No one understands that better than John and Marva, and we can’t thank them enough for their support.”

A Generous History at the University of Utah

The Warnock gift represents the latest in a generous history at their alma mater.

In 2003, the pair secured the future of the John E. and Marva M. Warnock Engineering Building. Completed in 2007, it represents one of the most sophisticated engineering school facilities in the country. Across campus, the Warnocks have endowed chairs for faculty members in mathematics, computer science, and art.

At the Moran Eye Center, Alan S. Crandall, MD, holds the John E. and Marva M. Warnock Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology.

Elizabeth Armstrong Johnson

A Grandson’s Legacy

Portrait of Elizabeth Armstrong Johnson

Our friend and benefactor Elizabeth Hope Johnson passed away March 5, 2014. One of her greatest wishes had been to honor and share the memory of her late grandson, David Kelby Johnson. In 2013, she made that wish come true with an extraordinary, heartfelt donation to Moran’s ongoing outreach programs—locally and around the world. The center’s namesake, John A. Moran, matched her donation of one million dollars, and Mrs. Johnson happily christened it the “David Kelby Johnson Hope Fund.” 

Elizabeth’s Story

Born in North Carolina in 1917, Elizabeth was just two years old when her mother passed away, and she was sent to live with relatives in Salt Lake City. She said she seemed to have been “born with some kind of spunk inside—and a good dose of integrity and ability to see the true nature of people.” As a young “Tri Delt” at the University of Utah, she met and four years later married Raymond Irvin Johnson, an outstanding head-of-his-class “Pi Kap.” True to her ability to discern a person’s nature, she had fallen in love with a man who would become one of Utah’s most successful businessmen.

The youngest person ever to pass the CPA exam at age 22, Raymond was immediately snapped up by the FBI where he worked as a special agent, using his expertise to uncover many illegal financial schemes. After he resigned from the FBI, he started a construction firm—the largest in Marin County, California, and nearby Lake Tahoe. Throughout their marriage, Elizabeth took immense pleasure and pride in planting and nurturing her lush gardens, creating warm and welcoming homes, and traveling the world.

A Crusade for David

Elizabeth punctuated her conversation with smiles and twinkling eyes, constantly gesturing with her delicate hands and eliciting laughs with pointed comments—not much ever got past her. But even in her later years Elizabeth had to stop and take a deep breath whenever she thought of the sad and senseless loss of her grandson. When he was just eight years old, David was hit and killed by a drunk driver while standing on the sidewalk on the street corner of Main Street in Salt Lake City. That tragedy forever changed and affected Elizabeth; she remained a relentless crusader against drunk driving for the rest of her life.

Making a World of Difference

At the time of Elizabeth’s gift, then-Outreach Division Manager Michael Yei noted, “Elizabeth’s incredibly generous gift is a true game-changer. The David Kelby Johnson Hope Fund will allow us to expand our programs into new areas of desperate need—it will bring more sight-saving surgeries to so many more blind patients in some of the most neglected and underserved regions of the world, and it will give us a springboard for more long-term, sustainable programs.” And her gift has truly made a world of difference, allowing the Moran Eye Center to begin new programs on the remote island nation of Micronesia and the Utah strip of the Navajo Nation, one of the most underserved areas in the continental United States.

“I’ve always stood up for what I believe in,” Elizabeth was fond of saying. “And I really believe in Moran. This gift will help so many desperate young people to restore their sight and give them hope for a brighter future. David would be so delighted to know that he will forever be a part of that.”

Val & Edith Green

Generosity of Spirit

For Val and Edith Green, wealth, beyond the pocketbook, was always measured by a generosity of spirit. They are remembered for their kindness—they were active in their Layton community and donated to the parks program. They were also generous donors to the University of Utah, culminating in the Val A. and Edith D. Green Presidential Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology, which was established in honor of the excellent care provided to Val by Dr. Mano Swartz, as well as the outstanding work of Dr. Julia Kleinschmidt and Dr. Alan Crandall.

Their Story

Val Green was born on January 21, 1927, in Layton, Utah. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1944 and served in Germany and France before returning home to attend the University of Utah and join his beloved fraternity, Sigma Chi. He rejoined the Air Force upon his graduation in 1952. Edith Green was born in Delhi, Louisiana, spending her early years in Monroe before moving to Arkansas where she graduated from Henderson University in 1949. The two met on a blind date while he was stationed in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she taught English at a junior high school. They married on January 20, 1955.

Care at the Moran Eye Center

Soon after, Val Green joined the Coca-Cola Company. After a stint in Salt Lake City, the family (now with the addition of two children) moved to Portland, Oregon, where Val coordinated Coca-Cola’s advertising and promotions for 14 states. After Val retired in 1984 due to failing eyesight, the Greens returned to Utah. The family’s appreciation for Val’s care at the University of Utah led to the creation of a presidential endowed chair, which will supports Moran Eye Center faculty members who are dedicated to expanding ophthalmological knowledge and who exemplify effective and efficient eye care delivery.

Val A. and Edith D. Green Presidential Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology

Dr. Alan Crandall was named as the inaugural chair holder in 2013. In 2018, University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins appointed Dr. Paul S. Bernstein, Moran's director of clinical research and associate director of research, to the chair.

Fred & Christine Fairclough

A Commitment to Service and Community

Christine and Fred Fairclough come from powerful traditions of service and community and have carried those commitments forward in their lives.

For decades, they have generously supported medical research, neuroscience, global health, and scholarship at the University of Utah.

Both are lead supporters of the University Hospital Foundation, and Fred, a retired real estate and banking executive, is a former chair of the U's Health Sciences Advocates, where they established the HSA Endowment. A scholarship at the David Eccles School of Business bears their name, and Fred was Founding Director of the school's Ivory-Boyer Real Estate Center.

They have also assumed many leadership roles beyond the University. To name only a few, Christine has served on the boards of The Children's Justice Center and Prevent Child Abuse Utah. She currently serves on the boards of The Kasiisi Project (U.S.) and chairs Moran's Global Vision Board. Fred chairs the Primary Children's Foundation Board.

Working for Greater Health Care Access Around the World 

As experienced world travelers, Christine and Fred have seen the tremendous need for greater health care access around the globe. "It's been a longtime dream for us to combine our interest in travel with an opportunity to share time and resources," says Fred.

Christine and Fred have served as donors and volunteers on Moran's outreach missions to Nepal, Guatemala, Micronesia, and Tanzania. "We've been so fortunate in our lives," says Christine. "We want to give back."

John & Toni Bloomberg

"You Don't Appreciate What You've Got Until It's Gone"

John and Toni Bloomberg

The adage “you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone” always had special meaning for John and Toni Bloomberg and is part of the reason for the couple's generosity to the Moran Eye Center.

For the Bloombergs, what they almost lost was John's vision. “I am a very active person, and as I began to lose my sight, I became more withdrawn and unable to participate in the activities that brought me pleasure,” he remembered. The vision loss prevented him from achieving his goals of becoming a ranked tennis player and skier in his age group. Simple things like reading The Wall Street Journal and driving at night had become extremely difficult.

Corneal Transplant Surgery at the Moran Eye Center

Following corneal transplant surgery at the University of Utah by Dr. Randall J Olson, John Bloomberg’s vision was restored, and the couple knew the perfect way to show their appreciation. “We thought, ‘What better place for fine art than a center dedicated to restoring sight?’” Today, much of the artwork hanging throughout the Moran Eye Center, and all of the art in the remodeled John and Toni Bloomberg Library, has been donated from the couple's collection of pieces by Utah artists.

“We've had a wonderful time collecting these pieces over the past 15 years. It's taken us all over the state from galleries to small thrift stores. We're very pleased to share this artwork,” said John. “Our hope is that through the work of these wonderful Utah artists, the patients, faculty, students, and staff of the Moran Eye Center will be inspired and appreciative of the tremendous gift of sight.”

John Bloomberg passed away on February 22, 2017. A longtime Moran board member and dear friend, he left a legacy of generosity, one that Toni has carried on with her usual grace and kindness.

Bloomberg Library

In addition to their donations of artwork, the Bloombergs generously funded the remodeling of the library and provided funding for the acquisition of books, visual aids, educational materials, professional journals, and other educational items for the benefit of the Bloomberg Library.