Letter to the editor: Milken has paid his debt to society

Rajiv Rimal is the chair of the department of prevention and community health in the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

I’m writing in response to the column, “The dark side of an $80 million gift” by Rachel Furlow, (March 13, online.)

The University is a place where contrary opinions should be freely expressed and even cultivated. I very much value Rachel Furlow’s right to express her opinion, and I praise the clarity with which she has done so, particularly when it seems to go against the grain of the celebratory mood on campus because of this very large donation.

As someone committed to enhancing the caliber of work done by our students and faculty members, I see the Milken Institute’s generous gift as a game changer — something that allows the school of public health to attract the best talent from around the world and make a tremendous impact in saving lives.

I take issue with the crux of Furlow’s argument. She notes: “Although Milken has turned into a philanthropist and his jail time is over, his name is still tied to those immoral tactics.”

In a nation of laws, we value redemption. The column does not focus on Milken’s current behavior, but to prior actions for which he has already paid his due to society. Instead of being bitter about his jail time, Milken has chosen to spend his fortunes in helping those without the means to do so, by finding cures for diseases and speeding up the translation of research findings into practice. Through his current gift, he is supporting the important work done by public health practitioners and researchers.

To some, his name may still be tied to “immoral tactics,” but that speaks to the need for those people to re-evaluate their own thinking — in light of what Milken has done after serving his sentence. Sentences, after all, do mean something.

I believe his investment in GW will exponentially expand the impact of public health in people’s lives for many years to come.

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