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Indian philanthropist is top donor for US university

By George Joseph in New York
June 13, 2008 14:52 IST
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When John P Kapoor graduated from Bombay University in the 1960s, he had hoped to continue his studies in the United States but could not afford to pay for it. The State University of New York at Buffalo offered him a graduate fellowship.

He earned his doctorate in medicinal chemistry in 1972 and went on to become an entrepreneur in the pharmaceutical industry. But he never forgot his alma mater. In 2000, he gave it $5 million, and, recently, he increased that sum to $10.8 million.

The gift, issued as a challenge to encourage others to follow his exemplary lead, will support construction of a new home for the university's nationally ranked pharmacy school, as well as to fund research, student financial aid and an emerging-technologies fund.

At the event where he made his bequest, Kapoor said, "I owe so much to this university. Fortunately, I am in a position to help, and the university is on the top of my list."

John B Simpson, president of University at Buffalo and Wayne K Anderson, dean, School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, thanked Kapoor. University officials said the gift would improve the pharmacy school and help attract some of the brightest students and faculty.

"It's a point of substantial pride for UB that our pharmacy school provided the foundation for Dr Kapoor's remarkable career in the pharmaceutical industry. It is very significant to our university that he has chosen to honour his alma mater with another truly extraordinary gift that will help us take the school to even greater heights of excellence," Simpson said.

The UB pharmacy school is preparing for its eventual move to the south campus, where it will join the university's four other health science schools — dental medicine, medicine, nursing and public health — that constitute the UB Academic Health Centre. The pharmacy school's new home will be funded by a private-public partnership, with the state of New York providing $46 million for construction and the remainder coming from the university and private investments. It will be the first UB professional school to relocate to the City of Buffalo since the construction of the North Campus in Amherst in the 1970s.

The renovated building is to be completed in 2011. The building will be named the John Kapoor Hall.

Kapoor, who has become the university's top individual donor, declined to be interviewed for this article.

He began his corporate career on Grand Island, New York as general manager for Lyphomed, a unit of Stone Container Corp. He was named president of the division in 1980, and in 1981 he bought the company for $2.7 million, becoming chairman, president and chief executive officer, and renaming the firm Lyphomed Inc.

During his years managing Lyphomed, Kapoor increased its sales to $172 million from $4 million. He sold Lyphomed and used $40 million of the profits to form EJ Financial Enterprises Inc, which invests in healthcare startups.

He and his late wife, Editha, a Grand Island native, ran the John and Editha Kapoor Charitable Foundation to support children and youth services, higher education, hospitals and other causes in India. Since 1986, the Foundation has funded research, a state-of-the-art instrumentation core and graduate fellowships at UB. Other contributions provided support for five Kapoor Fellows in the pharmacy school. The Foundation's support also was critical to the school's successful completion of a Kresge Foundation Challenge Grant for $500,000 to pay for additional equipment.

Amritsar-born Kapoor remembered that without UB's support "it would have been impossible for me to come to the United States to pursue higher education. I received tremendous support and encouragement from the faculty at the school as I tried to adjust to a different system of education. I also learned a great deal about this country at the university."

The honours he has received include the UB Distinguished Alumni Award, a SUNY honorary degree, the San Diego Indian American Society Chakra Award and the American Cancer Society International Achievement Award for Philanthropy.

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