University Life Trustee, Neurosciences Benefactor Ernest J. Del Monte Dies

Apr. 22, 2012
Hotel pioneer, philanthropist leaves legacy of expanding research, improving community

Ernest J. Del Monte, 87, real estate and hotel developer, philanthropist and University of Rochester Life Trustee, died Saturday, April 21, 2012.  His generosity to the University of Rochester leaves a legacy of innovation and collaboration to help eradicate brain diseases.

Mr. Del Monte, of Pittsford, was a visionary in business and industry. With a $10 million gift to the University in 2009, he and his wife, Thelma, helped establish the E.J. Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute to expand the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, spinal cord and brain injuries, and brain cancers at the University of Rochester Medical Center. 

The gift was the catalyst for the establishment of the Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute, which serves as an umbrella for several vibrant research centers and growing clinical care programs throughout the Medical Center and River Campus. It has also reinvigorated the scientists and physicians who treat patients with neurological conditions.

“Ernie was a force of nature who touched so many of our lives at the University. I am proud to have spent time with him and his late wife, Thelma, and continue to be deeply moved by his commitment to the Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute.  When I last spoke with him, he was still planning deals, always imaginative, always determined, right up to the end,” said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester.

Mr. Del Monte served the University with distinction as a Voting Trustee from 1998 to 2002, a Senior Trustee from 2002 to 2007, and as Life Trustee from 2007 to the time of his death.  He served on the Board’s development, facilities, and personnel committees. It was during this time that Mr. Del Monte was impressed and intrigued by the Neuromedicine faculty who are pushing the frontiers of discovery and treatment of brain disease.

“Ernie had an inventive mind and generous heart.  He was interested in extending the innovative concepts  he utilized to achieve success in business to help the University of Rochester and URMC achieve higher quality and greater recognition.  His desire to create excellence, assist discovery and translate understanding into clinical care motivated him to establish URMC’s Neuromedicine Institute,” said URMC CEO Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D.  “He made all of us think more expansively and creatively; a great legacy.” 

“Throughout an extraordinary life which was replete with impressive accomplishments, Ernie Del Monte always painted on a large canvas.  His creative instincts and his feeling that no worthy goal was too ambitious inspired him to partner with the University of Rochester Medical Center to create a Neuromedicine Institute which now bears his name,” said Webster H. Pilcher, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Neurosurgery and director of the Ernest J. Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute. “Ernie's fervent wish was that clinical and research initiatives fostered within the Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute would restore the lives of patients suffering from disabling neurological diseases.  He was a dear friend to me personally, to our Neuromedicine community and to our institution.  He will be sorely missed, but his legacy will live on.”

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. DelMonte 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. 

He is survived by four children, E. John Del Monte, Andrea D. Scott, Vickie Durfee, and Karen Geary, and their spouses; 13 grandchildren; five great grandchildren, his sister, Laura Tedrow; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Calling hours will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 25, at Miller Funeral Homes, 3325 Winton Road South. Funeral service will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at Third Presbyterian Church, 4 Meigs St.  In lieu of flowers, friends may contribute to the Ernest J. Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center.