The Gorilla Foundation is pleased to announce a recent, generous bequest from the estate of Mark Hopkins Schell. Please see below for the uses of this gift and the opportunity for other donors to match some part or the amount in full. In honor of this gift we would like to share with you some of the life and expansive vision of Mark Hopkins Schell.

As a child growing up in both Maryland and later in California, Mark came from an abusive and dysfunctional family. Mark’s childhood dog became his best friend and savior from the abuses that he and his brothers endured from both parents. It was extremely important for Mark to have dogs throughout his adult life – first a St. Bernard and more recently, Akitas.

The companionship of his dogs, their unconditional love and the joy they brought him saw him through some very dark times, as well as sharing in some very successful times in his life. Mark liked animals more than most people.

He recognized their incredible intelligence, their innate understanding and sensitivity to the world around them, their own unique language, and their genuine curiosity, their sense of family and caring for one another, and most of all their unconditional love.  From his viewpoint animals possessed an intelligence that was superior to humans.

He enjoyed watching animal programs on TV and was always fascinated as to their reasoning abilities, their values, their tolerance, and their ability to forgive. They protect their territory, but do not wage war.

He was especially moved by the lives of gorillas Koko and Michael — the gentleness of Koko with her many kittens, and Michael’s disturbing memory of his mother’s poaching in Africa — and their ability to express their abilities and emotional depth in sign language.

When Mark purchased his first home in Newport Beach, he decorated his bedroom with a variety of African animal motifs — including a fake tree with twinkle lights that had monkeys hanging out of it.

He went on an African safari in the mid-80’s which made a huge impression on his life, and fueled his growing interest in wild animals, particularly elephants, rhinos, giraffes, tigers and gorillas. His inner dream was to move to Africa to live, however it didn’t work out. He settled for creating his own African lodge on his ranch property in Temecula, California and adorned the outside with large, metal sculptures of the animals he loved the most (see photo):

Mark’s African Lodge in Temecula, California.

Mark’s heart was with animals and animal welfare. Since he never had children, he wanted the money from his estate to go to animal charities who needed it and where he could do some good.

Introduction to The Gorilla Foundation:
Mark was motivated to learn more about The Gorilla Foundation, and Penny Patterson’s work with Koko, through Robin Williams. He admired Robin and his involvement with The Gorilla Foundation.  This inspired him to explore the work that the foundation was doing, which resonated deeply with his feelings about animal intelligence and communication.

Mark Schell was a model, actor, successful business owner and philanthropist. He owned Mark Schell Designs, a European style men’s boutique in Corona del Mar, CA for more than 20 years. He presented traditional high quality men’s wear with a flare and enjoyed a following of an elite clientele. He was a people person, with the biggest smile and a terrific sense of humor that endeared him to everyone who met him.

His death left a void in many people’s lives.

Mark’s life will be remembered by his friends, colleagues and family, and — through his generous bequests to animal organizations such as The Gorilla Foundation — by millions of human and non-human animals around the world. They may not all know his name, but they will benefit from his philanthropic vision and empathy.


Mark with two of his beloved Akita dogs.


Mark relaxing at his lodge in Temecula, California


Remembering Mark . . .

Mark volunteered as a docent at the Santa Ana Zoo, for over 17 years ago. Those still around remember him —for his passion for animals and how he engaged children and got them excited about the animals and the zoo, for his sense of humor and that he was the best dressed docent the zoo has ever had, before and after him!”

Kent Yamaguchi, Executive Director, Santa Ana Zoo


Mark Hopkins Schell's Bequest
to The Gorilla Foundation


Amount: $300,000

Date: August 2017

Impact on Koko's Mission:

1) Enables The Gorilla Foundation to increase its organizational capacity, by hiring a Major Gifts Director to raise funds necessary to transmit Koko's legacy to future generations (see TGF's Strategic Initiatives).

2) Creates the leverage to potentially transform $300,000 into $3M or more, by sharing The Gorilla Foundation's plans in more depth with many prospective major donors.

Challenge to You:

1) Match part or all of Mark Hopkins Schell's gift and give The Gorilla Foundation's new Major Gifts Director the time and resources needed to succeed.

2) Contribute directly to TGF's Strategic Initiatives now to build momentum for their completion.

3) Remember The Gorilla Foundation in your will or trust. You can arrange for a Koko Legacy Gift in advance, so the Foundation can achieve its mission of Conservation through (interspecies) Communication in Koko's lifetime, and replicate Koko's legacy as a gorilla ambassador (and "The Voice of Nature") around the world!

How You Can Help:

Contact Dr. Gary Stanley, Director of Education & Development, at [email protected] to learn more about how to accept the above challenge.  As a teacher once wrote us: "When we think of saving the Earth, we can't help but think of Koko."  And as a 5-year child later told us: "All Gorillas are Kokos."  Help us (with Koko's help) create a sustainable future for all gorillas!



Thank you, Mark Hopkins Schell !




Special thanks to Ms. Pamela Thorsch, Mark's life-long friend, who co-wrote the above tribute, providing visual materials, details and insights about Mark Hopkins Schell's life and vision.


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1733 Woodside Rd., Suite 330
Redwood City, CA, 94061
1-800-ME-GO-APE (634-6273)

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