Joan Kroc, the major stockholder of the McDonald's restaurant empire, has donated $1 million to fund AIDS research.
Kroc made the personal gift to the American Foundation for AIDS Research Tuesday night, handing over a check to actress Elizabeth Taylor, AMFAR's founder, at a dinner in New York.
Kroc "has developed an interest in AMFAR and AIDS over the past few years," said Nancy Lowman, a spokeswoman for the two-year-old organization. "She also has a relationship with Elizabeth Taylor, who is the founder and national chairwoman of AMFAR."
The gift was paired with a $25,000 donation to the San Diego AIDS Project, which will probably be used to help fund the group's legal, counseling and support services, said Lance Clem, the organization's education projects coordinator.
Kroc's gift to the AIDS project was made Dec. 4, but was announced Wednesday along with the gift to AMFAR, Clem said. It brings Kroc's total donations to the local organization to $125,000 over the last three years.
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome is an invariably fatal disease caused by a virus that attacks its victims' immune systems, leaving them unable to fight off opportunistic infections and cancers.
Kroc's donation to AMFAR is the third $1-million donation to the organization, which has raised more than $7 million for laboratory and clinical research into vaccines and therapy, as well as educational, ethical, legal and behavioral research on AIDS.
"The AIDS virus does not discriminate," Kroc said. "It is striking sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers across the U.S. and around the world. . . . As individuals, we can comfort those who already are afflicted by it with our understanding and compassion."
Other large donations made by Kroc in recent years include a $6-million gift to Notre Dame University's International Institute for Peace Studies; a $3-million grant to San Diego's St. Vincent de Paul Joan Kroc Center for the homeless, and $1-million gifts to an Ethiopian famine relief fund and St. Jude's Children's Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.