Herbert Irving: A Legacy of Support

Herbert Irving, one of the most influential and generous benefactors in medical center and P&S history, died Oct. 3, 2016, at age 98.

Mr. Irving and his wife, Florence, helped advance the Columbia University Medical Center by giving more than $300 million to support facilities, research, clinical programs, and both early and established physician-scientists. Among the programs and facilities named for them are the Herbert Irving Pavilion, the Irving Cancer Research Center, the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, the Irving Radiation Oncology Center, the Irving Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, and the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Their gifts also made possible a long list of named professorships, faculty chairs, and other clinical and research facilities. In just the past year alone, the Irvings provided a major gift that supports Columbia’s Precision Medicine Initiative and endows seven new professorships.

Mr. Irving called support of CUMC and NewYork-Presbyterian one of the couple’s proudest accomplishments: “This is a relationship that has endured for many years and been very important to us. We are honored to be associated in this way with these great institutions and the special people who make them what they are.”

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Mr. Irving co-founded and served as vice chair of Sysco Corporation, the nation’s largest food distributor.

“The Irvings’ philanthropy is synonymous with so many great programs at our medical center,” said Dean Lee Goldman in announcing Mr. Irving’s death. “Their generosity has touched every department on our campus, and many of our faculty members owe some measure of success directly or indirectly to Herbert and Florence Irving. He was a great friend to Columbia University Medical Center and to so many of us personally.”

Honoring the Irvings

In September, Columbia, CUMC, and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital leadership announced the naming of the shared medical center campus in Washington Heights to honor Herbert and Florence Irving. The medical center campus will now be called Columbia University Herbert and Florence Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

In announcing the names, Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger, CUMC Chief Executive and Dean Lee Goldman, MD, and NewYork-Presbyterian President and CEO Steven J. Corwin, MD, noted that the Irvings, through their longstanding and continuing philanthropy to the University and Hospital, have played an essential role in advancing one of the leading academic medical centers in the nation and world.

“The new name is a testament to the Irvings’ inspiring example and the lofty goals they have long shared with Columbia University, its medical center, and NewYork-Presbyterian,” said the joint announcement.