In Memoriam: Sumner Redstone

Philanthropist’s gift established the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness.

image of sumner redstone
Sumner Redstone.
August 18, 2020

Philanthropist and entrepreneur Sumner Redstone, who in 2014 was part of a record-breaking donation to the George Washington University that established the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, died Aug. 11 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97.

Mr. Redstone received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from GW in 2006. In 2014, through his Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation, he contributed to the largest philanthropic gift in GW’s history as a joint effort between himself and friend and collaborator Mike Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute.

“The Redstone Global Center has built expertise over the last six years that has allowed us to focus on the drivers of health, resilience and sustainability and the systems that perpetuate inequity and disparities,” said William Dietz, director of the Redstone Global Center. “As the District of Columbia, our country and the world confront a new ‘syndemic’ of COVID-19, obesity and food insecurity, and how these issues interact with structural racism and poverty, the Redstone Global Center’s work has become ever more relevant. It is an honor to have been entrusted with the responsibility bestowed by Mr. Redstone’s gift. We are proud to have the opportunity to build on his legacy as we continue to work together to improve the health and well-being of our city, nation and planet.”

Mr. Redstone’s family owned a small drive-in movie theater chain, and he began his corporate ascension as an early proponent and builder of indoor multiplexes. He eventually bought media syndication company Viacom, which under his leadership became one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, encompassing networks like CBS, MTV and Nickelodeon, studio Paramount Pictures, publisher Simon and Schuster and former video rental chain Blockbuster.

His colorful life included a stint as a codebreaker during World War II and a cinematic escape from a burning hotel that left him with third-degree burns over half of his body. According to The Washington Post, Mr. Redstone was passionate about health and wellness, maintaining a meticulous diet and exercise routine throughout his life.

“Mr. Redstone leaves an indelible and far-reaching legacy that will continue to drive generations of public health progress at our university and around the globe,” GW President Thomas J. LeBlanc said. “Perhaps now more than ever, this work is critical to the future of our world. We will remain forever grateful to Mr. Redstone for his support of our university and his commitment to improving the lives of others. Our thoughts are with the Redstone family during this difficult time.”

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