The founder of women's shoe company Nine West has given $50 million to the University of Pennsylvania, one of the largest donations in school history, to help build a biomedical-research facility.

Jerome Fisher, a 1953 Penn alum, and his wife, Anne, donated the funds toward construction of an eight-story building on the university's campus. Fisher is founder and chairman emeritus of the Nine West Group Inc., which makes women's shoes and accessories.

"[It's] an incredibly generous and transformational gift, which will further position Penn at the forefront of bench-to-bedside medicine," university President Amy Gutmann said yesterday in a statement announcing the donation.

Slated to open in 2010, the Anne and Jerome Fisher Translational Research Center will emphasize an accelerated pace for converting laboratory discoveries into medical therapies.

Each floor will be the size of a football field, dramatically increasing Penn's research space, university officials said. It will house about 100 principal researchers and 900 additional staff.

The donation also includes a professorship in hematology and oncology named in honor of the Fishers' daughter, Jodi.

It is one of the largest gifts in the history of the Ivy League school and the second-largest to Penn's medical system.

"Anne and I love Penn, and we have long felt that investing in this world-class university is investing in the future of humankind itself," Jerome Fisher said.

The couple's previous gifts to Penn total more than $14 million. *