Mr Hansjörg Wyss

Board Member

African Parks Network, South Africa

As an active philanthropist, Mr. Wyss’ giving fosters new ideas, new tools, and new collaborations in areas from land conservation to education and the arts, to economic opportunity and conflict resolution.

Mr. Wyss currently serves as Chairman of The Wyss Foundation, which he established in 1998 with a main focus on the protection of public lands in the American West.  Mr. Wyss’ work in land conservation was inspired by his first experiences when he came from Switzerland to the United States as a graduate student in 1958 and took a summer job as a surveyor with the Colorado Highway Department.  Since its creation, the Foundation’s support for locally-driven conservation initiatives has led to the protection of more than 20 million acres of public lands for the benefit of current and future generations. 

Thanks to Mr. Wyss’ philanthropy, the Wyss Foundation has recently broadened its efforts to help conserve wild places around the globe:  For example, in 2016, it made a landmark $65 million commitment to African Parks to support the protection and management of four existing parks in Rwanda and Malawi and to enable the non-profit organization to conserve up to five new protected areas in other countries. 

Mr. Wyss remains highly engaged in supporting medical research, education and training. He is a founding member of the AO Foundation, a medically guided nonprofit led by an international group of surgeons who specialize in the treatment of trauma and disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Mr. Wyss has also endowed chairs at a wide range of universities and hospitals, including Clemson University, the University of Washington, the University of Mississippi, the University of Maryland, the University of South Alabama, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

In 2009, Mr. Wyss contributed $125 million to Harvard University – the largest gift in the university’s history – to establish the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. That gift was followed by a second of the same amount in 2013. The Institute “seeks to solve some of the world’s most complex challenges in the healthcare and environment by drawing inspiration from nature’s design principles. In addition to uncovering new knowledge about how nature builds, controls, and manufactures, the Institute measures success in the ability of its faculty and staff to translate their discoveries into products that can have near-term impact.” It is this Institute at Harvard that is the model for the Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro- Engineering at Campus Biotech in Geneva.

In 2013, Mr. Wyss made The Giving Pledge, joining Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet and other philanthropists in a commitment to give away at least half of his wealth to charitable causes.   Overall, Mr. Wyss has made more than $1.35 billion in charitable contributions since 2004.

In 2014 he contributed $120 million to ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich to found a translational research center at the interface of medicine, science and engineering: the Wyss Translational Center Zurich. Through an interdisciplinary approach, the new center aims to accelerate the development and application of innovative medical therapies and groundbreaking robotic systems.

Mr. Wyss is the Chairman of the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, Switzerland (the most popular museum in Switzerland,) and further supports the Arts by providing scholarships to art schools in his home country.  He is a longstanding supporter of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and its youth orchestra, the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra or BPYO. 

Mr. Wyss was educated in Switzerland and the US and holds several honorary degrees.  He graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Business with an M.B.A. with Distinction in 1965, and prior to that received a Master of Science in Civil & Structural Engineering (Dipl. Ing. ETH/SIA) from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich in 1959.

  • Chairman Emeritus, Synthes, Inc.
  • Honorary Doctorate from Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne (EPFL) (2014)
  • Honorary Doctorate from University of Zuerich (2013)
  • Recipient of the Robert Marshall Award from The Wilderness Society (2011)
  • Recipient of Beatrice Ellerin Award from Harvard Business School's Alumni Association (2011)
  • Honorary Doctorate from Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (2009)
  • Recipient of Harvard Business School Alumni Achievement Award (2007) - One of Harvard's most important honors, the Alumni Achievement Award is bestowed on distinguished graduates who have contributed significantly to their companies and communities, while upholding the highest standards and values in everything they do.
  • Honorary Doctorate from Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg, Austria (2005)
  • Honorary Doctorate from University of Basel, Switzerland (2004)