Why we give: A tradition of American leadership

“If one is really interested in getting rid of diseases, then LJI is one of the top places to look.”
Karna and Dick Bodman stand in front of their home
Karna and Dick Bodman

Richard S. “Dick” Bodman and Karna Bodman know a lot about leadership. As a venture capitalist and engineering entrepreneur, Dick has served in positions including Assistant Secretary of the Interior under President Nixon, Chairman of TDF Ventures, and founder of AT&T Ventures.

Karna, currently a novelist, began her career as a TV news reporter and anchor. She then served six years in the Reagan White House, first as Deputy Press Secretary, later as Senior Director and Spokesman for the National Security Council.

The Rancho Santa Fe couple knows their resumes can be a mouthful.

“Dick has had several different careers,” says Karna.

“All of which have been enjoyable!” adds Dick.

Always glad to give where they can, in recent years the Bodmans have focused much of their time and philanthropy on educational and scientific causes. Dick is a passionate supporter of biomedical research as a Trustee of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. Karna is a member of the Board of Directors of the PBS stations in Washington, D.C., is the Founding Trustee of their church, and served as a member of the Board of Directors of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic for over a decade.

The Bodmans have also given regular gifts to La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI), where their generosity fuels research into infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases, cancer immunotherapies, and much more. In 2016, Dick was elected to the LJI Board of Directors and helped guide the Institute as head of the finance committee.

“We want to support good causes through service,” says Dick. “If one is really interested in getting rid of diseases, then LJI is one of the top places to look.”

The Bodmans are also inspired by breakthroughs in biomedical technology. Dick is co-founder and Chairman of PurThread Technologies, Inc., a maker of antimicrobial textile fibers for healthcare and consumer use, and he has a keen understanding of the new technologies in use at LJI. Karna has even incorporated the gene-editing technique CRISPR into one of her award-winning political thrillers.

Advocacy for the sciences runs in the family. As Dick was growing up, his father served as Chairman of the Board at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. “Since then, I’ve always been interested in health and disease,” says Dick. Philanthropy has also continued as a Bodman family tradition. The couple’s sons serve on several non-profit boards.

Most recently, Dick and Karna established the endowed Richard S. and Karna S. Bodman Leadership Fund. This fund will be used at the discretion of the Institute’s President and CEO to fund the most promising and often unanticipated scientific opportunities that arise. Their support gives LJI scientists a way to pursue new, often urgent research questions for which other, more rigid funding sources are not readily available.

“I always say, ‘Put it where it’s most useful’,” says Dick.