• By Kelley Luckstein

$60 million gift to Mayo Clinic will accelerate efforts to transform health care delivery in Minnesota

March 15, 2021
outdoor photo of Nasseff Tower

ROCHESTER, Minn. — A generous gift of $60 million from philanthropist Helene Houle of St. Paul, Minnesota, will enable Mayo Clinic to accelerate its efforts to transform health care delivery in Minnesota.

In honor of the gift, Mayo Clinic will name the recently completed patient bed tower at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, Saint Marys Campus, after Ms. Houle's husband, the late John Nasseff.

The family's relationship with Mayo Clinic began when Mr. Nasseff's youngest son, Arthur Nasseff, had lifesaving surgery at Saint Marys Hospital in the 1960s when he was 16 years old. Mr. Nasseff and Ms. Houle have made several gifts to Mayo Clinic to honor Arthur's surgeon, Burton Onofrio, M.D., and other physicians who have cared for the family over seven decades — including in neurosurgery, cardiology and rheumatology.

"John Nasseff and Helene Houle have had a significant impact on Mayo Clinic over the decades of their support," says Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., Mayo Clinic's president and CEO. "We are incredibly grateful to Ms. Houle for this generous gift, and we cannot think of a more fitting way to honor Mr. Nasseff."

The John M. Nasseff Tower on the east side of Mayo Clinic Hospital ― Rochester, Saint Marys Campus, encompasses 430,000 square feet and soars 11 stories into the Rochester skyline. It includes 162 patient beds in units where Mayo Clinic staff provide a seamless, integrated approach to patient care.

"When I go to Mayo, I know I'm going to receive the best care possible," Ms. Houle says. "There's a special human touch that gives you confidence in knowing you are getting the answers you can trust."

Mayo Clinic honors Mr. Nasseff and Ms. Houle as Philanthropic Partners, the highest level of recognition for benefactors of the institution. The Nasseff Tower is the first building on the Saint Marys Campus to be named after a grateful patient.

"The story of Mr. Nasseff mirrors the story of the Sisters of Saint Francis. From humble beginnings grow great hope and compassion for those who come to us in need," says Sister Lauren Weinandt of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Assisi. "Ms. Houle's investment in Mayo Clinic allows us to carry forward our mission for generations to come. We are proud to partner with the Nasseff family."

Helene Houle and John Nasseff
Ms. Helene Houle and the late Mr. John Nasseff

Mr. Nasseff, who grew up in St. Paul, was often referred to as the "rags to riches philanthropist." He and Ms. Houle are well-known in the Twin Cities for their extraordinary gifts to countless organizations. The couple was honored as Outstanding Individual Philanthropists by the Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2014.

Mr. Nasseff died in 2018 on his 94th birthday.

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