Ohio State University Medical Center Renamed in Honor of Les and Abigail Wexner

The Wexners are the founding donors of Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership

By Mari Megias and Loren Gary

Ohio State University renamed its medical center Saturday, February 11, in honor of Center for Public Leadership’s (CPL) founding and sustaining donors Leslie H. and Abigail Wexner, a fitting tribute to a family whose generosity to Les’s alma mater stretches back more than three decades. The institution, which will be known as the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, is undergoing a $1.1 billion expansion—the largest in the university’s history.

As founding and sustaining benefactors of Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership, Wexner, chair and CEO of Limited Brands, his wife, Abigail, and the Wexner Foundation have donated more than $24 million to CPL. In addition to this funding, the Wexners have generously established the Israel Fellows Program, which brings Israeli public leaders to HKS to pursue a midcareer master’s degree. This program, which is now in its twenty-third year, boasts more than 200 graduates.

Last year Wexner, his family, and the Limited Brands Foundation pledged $100 million to Ohio State—the largest single donation OSU has ever received—bringing their combined donations over the years to nearly $200 million (this figure doesn’t include the hundreds of millions more that the Wexners have helped raise). The 2011 gift will be used mainly in support of the medical center, the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, and the Richard J. Solove Research Institute; a portion will also benefit OSU’s Wexner Center for the Arts.

The Columbus Dispatch quoted OSU president Gordon Gee as saying that Wexner’s “most valuable gift has been his extraordinary leadership.” In his 16 years of service as a university trustee, Wexner was chair twice. Gee credited Wexner with “a firm and unequivocal vision for our academic medical center, and that is to be a world-class institution, period.” Abigail Wexner serves on the medical center’s board of directors.

Wexner said, “I have every confidence that the complex medical challenges confronting us today will be solved at the Ohio State University through the collaboration among researchers and scientists from a broad spectrum of specialties.” In a video released by the Columbus Dispatch, Wexner recalls an occasion during his mid-30s when his father told him that devoting time and resources to philanthropic pursuits was acceptable if it was for his own self-satisfaction, “‘but if you think you can change the destiny of the world, you’re wasting your energy and you’re wasting your money. Now if it just makes you feel good, it’s okay—you’re entitled to spend your time and your resource any way you can.’ But I always thought my dad was wrong—I still do—in that statement. And this morning it occurred to me about five o’clock that he just said that—he was challenging me in another way.”

The New York Times included a full-page advertisement on Sunday, February 12, carrying the news of the renaming of the Ohio State Medical Center in honor of the Wexners.

picture of Leslie H. and Abigail Wexner

Center for Public Leadership’s founding donors, Abigail and Leslie H. Wexner

“I have every confidence that the complex medical challenges confronting us today will be solved at the Ohio State University through the collaboration among researchers and scientists from a broad spectrum of specialties," said Les Wexner.


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