In May 2009, Ernest J. Del Monte, chairman of E.J. Del Monte Corporation, a Rochester-based company that owns and operates 17 hotels in New York State, made a $10 million commitment with his wife, Thelma, after getting to know neuroscience leaders at the Medical Center. He was impressed that scientific studies in Rochester are providing critical insight into neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, stroke, brain tumors, and injuries to the brain and spinal cord, all of which are rapidly becoming more prevalent.
“Neuroscience is one of the most promising endeavors that the University has undertaken,” Del Monte said at the time of his gift. “We have all the necessary ingredients to be successful internationally. My hope is that this gift will be the force to help scientists and clinicians collaborate seamlessly so that one day, from this Institute, the cure for Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and other neurological disorders will emerge. I truly believe we can do it.”
Ernest J. Del Monte, who also served as a University of Rochester Life Trustee, died Saturday, April 21, 2012, at 87 years of age. His generosity to the University of Rochester leaves a legacy of innovation and collaboration to help eradicate neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases.
The Del Monte’s gift was the catalyst for the establishment of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience, which now serves as an umbrella for several vibrant research centers and growing clinical care programs throughout the Medical Center and River Campus.
The son of a painting contractor who shared a home with eight siblings, Mr. Del Monte learned early in life that hard work, creativity, bold decisions, and teamwork would bring about success.
He served as a pilot in World War II and parlayed his military experience to fill an unmet need: building generators for aircraft missiles. That led to the creation of E.J. Del Monte Corp. in 1953, first working out of his basement, and then from a factory on Linden Avenue in East Rochester with 175 full-time workers. His company developed the sidewinder missile generator for F-102 fighter jets. His innovation resulted in ownership of dozens and dozens of patents for various inventions.
Over time, his interest transitioned into real estate and hotel development. As he built warehouses and business offices, he pioneered the construction of hotels using modular units. This approach, for which he received more than 20 patents, has since been used to construct hotels around the world.
In 1972, Mr. Del Monte established a relationship with the Marriott Corporation, and today the company owns and operates 17 Marriott hotels in New York, including the Del Monte Lodge in Pittsford and the Marriott in Greece.