Our founders: Jim and Virginia Stowers

Inspired by their personal experiences with cancer and a desire to use their wealth to help humanity, James “Jim” E. Stowers Jr. and Virginia G. Stowers founded the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in their hometown of Kansas City, Missouri.

After briefly considering a career in medicine, Jim Stowers put his sights on business and started a mutual fund company, which was later renamed American Century Investments. He pioneered the application of computer power to investment management and, through hard work and sheer tenacity, turned a stake of a few thousand dollars into one of the largest mutual fund companies in the country with $135 billion in assets under its management.

While her husband followed the dream that took him from a struggling entrepreneur to one of the most admired and successful people in the mutual fund industry, Virginia raised their four children and pursued her career as a registered nurse.

As the Stowers have shared the story, in the early 1990s, they realized that the mutual fund company Jim had started had made them wealthy far beyond what they or their children could possibly need. They wanted to give back to the millions of investors in American Century mutual funds who had made their success possible.

“Virginia and I wanted to give back something vastly more valuable than money to the countless people who have made our lives so meaningful. It’s our greatest hope that we can return the gifts we have received through an environment of unparalleled scientific research, creating hope for life for generations hence,” Jim Stowers said when describing his reasons for creating the Institute.

Over the next decade, the couple endowed the institute with gifts totaling over $2 billion, placing these visionary philanthropists in the top ranks of the world’s most generous givers.