James E. Stowers Jr.’s father and grandfather were Kansas City physicians. Stowers, who received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri, had planned to become a doctor, even completing a two-year degree in medicine. However, he was drawn to business. Stowers received an honorary doctor of science degree in 2005.
After working as a mutual-fund salesman, Stowers launched his own company in 1958 with four employees, a base of 12 investors, two mutual funds and initial assets of only $107,000.
Today, with a staff of 1,800, American Century manages $96 billion in assets for more than 1.6 million shareholders.
Having achieved success in the financial world, Stowers decided he wanted to give back something more valuable than money to the millions of people who helped make him successful. He and his wife, Virginia, who are both cancer survivors, wanted to help people enjoy a healthier life, so in 1994 they created the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.
The institute aspires to be one of the most innovative biomedical research organizations in the world. Scientists at the state-of-the-art facility conduct basic research on genes and proteins that control fundamental processes in living cells to unlock the mysteries of disease and find the keys to their causes, treatment and prevention.
Since his initial donation in 1994 of $50 million in American Century stock to start the institute, the Stowers have contributed several more gifts and have taken an active role in designing and managing the center. The institute’s endowment is currently worth more than $2 billion.