In Memoriam: Lorry Lokey (1927-2022)

Lorry Lokey (left) with Irv Weissman (right)

Lorry I. Lokey (’49), a Stanford graduate and philanthropist who supported stem cell research and other causes, died October 1st. Lokey built a business empire and then proceeded to give nearly all his money away, steering much of it to Stanford. Lokey was the largest private donor supporting the construction of the building called SIM1, which was named the Lorry I. Lokey Building for Stem Cell Research in his honor.

“With the passing of Lorry Lokey, Stanford University, and especially the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine have lost the energy, the vision, and the continuous commitment he brought to realizing stem cell research and clinical translation here,” said Irv Weissman, founding director of the ISCBRM.  “The Construction of the Lorry I. Lokey Building for Stem Cell Research, and our biomedical stem cell discoveries and their clinical translations have attested to Lorry’s vision. The lives saved now and in the future stand as perhaps his most enduring gift to people with what had been incurable diseases.”

Lokey majored in journalism at Stanford and was editor-in-chief of the Stanford Daily. After graduating in 1949, he worked for the wire service United Press and in public relations for Shell Oil, among other jobs. In 1961, he realized that there might be a market for a subscription service that distributed business press releases over teletype machines, much as wire services like United Press distributed news stories. Lokey founded Business Wire, which went on to become a huge success. It was sold in 2006 for $500 million. 

In 2012, Lokey joined Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and many of the other world’s wealthiest people in promising to give away at least half their wealth. Before he died, Lokey gave away nearly all his wealth—over $800 million. Stanford was always high on Lokey’s list when donating money. He served as the lead donor for the Lorry I. Lokey Laboratory for the Life Sciences, the Lorry I. Lokey Stanford Daily Building, as well as the Lorry I. Lokey Building for Stem Cell Research.

"I do not really view the giving program as giving or spending or paying back,” Lokey told the Stanford News Service during one campus visit. “When you get down to it, the action is one of reinvestment. Or, as farmers put it, plowing riches back into the soil in order to continue the run of good harvests."