More than 425 local leaders representing UC Irvine, its nationally recognized medical center and the Orange County community attended the 2012 UC Irvine Health Gala, “Healing Under the Stars,” on Saturday, April 14, at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim.

The third annual event generated more than $700,000. Proceeds will support patient care programs and technologies at UC Irvine Medical Center, consistently identified by U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Hospitals.”

“We are fortunate to be part of a caring community that embraces our mission to discover, teach and heal,” said medical center CEO Terry Belmont. “Their response to this gala demonstrates that more and more people are realizing UC Irvine Medical Center offers a level of care that’s only attainable at a world-class academic medical center.”

Three individuals were recognized for significant contributions to healing. Longtime Orange County residents Thomas and Elizabeth Tierney were presented the inaugural CEO Leadership Award for co-chairing a record-setting fundraising campaign to build UC Irvine Douglas Hospital. They pursued every avenue to reach the goal, from hosting events to making their own substantial lead gift, eventually securing $50 million in philanthropic support for the 482,000-square-foot facility.

Their contributions to the university extend beyond the medical center. Elizabeth Tierney served as a UC Irvine Foundation trustee for 14 years. Thomas Tierney, who is president of Vita-Tech International Inc., has been a trustee since 1986 and chaired the foundation from 1998 to 2001. The couple also provided the lead gift for the UC Irvine chancellor’s private residence, the Tierney University House; endowed the campus’s first lifetime chair in peace studies; and funded a host of scholarships.

Former UC Irvine Medical Center patient Jon Wilhite was honored as the first “Hero of Healing” for demonstrating a strength of spirit and determination to recover that have made him a role model to others. Wilhite was rushed to Orange County’s only Level I trauma center with multiple life-threatening injuries after a car crash in April 2009 that killed three friends, including Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart. Today Wilhite works full time at a Southern California logistics company and speaks to local school groups about the dangers of drinking and driving – recalling how a drunk driver at the wheel of a second vehicle caused the fateful crash three years ago.

UC Irvine alumni and benefactors David Tsoong, M.D., and his wife, Betty Tu, M.D., served as honorary co-chairs of this year’s event alongside Richard and Susan Bridgford, who took center stage as the gala’s masters of ceremonies. Richard Bridgford, a partner at the law firm Bridgford & Gleason, and David Tsoong, chairman and president of Pinnacle Resources International Inc., are both UC Irvine Foundation trustees.

Guests closed the evening by dancing to the music of JT & California Dreamin’ – the band formed by UC Irvine philanthropist and drummer John Tu, co-founder of Kingston Technology. The event was underwritten by Abbott Medical Optics Inc., David Tsoong and Betty Tu, Kingston Technology and John Tu.

About UC Irvine Medical Center: Orange County’s only university hospital, UC Irvine Medical Center offers acute- and general-care services at its new, 482,000-square-foot UC Irvine Douglas Hospital and is home to the county’s only Level I trauma center, American College of Surgeons-verified regional burn center and National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. U.S. News & World Report has included UC Irvine for 11 consecutive years on its list of “America’s Best Hospitals,” giving special recognition to its urology, gynecology, kidney disorders and cancer programs.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led byChancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UCI news, visit

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