When University of Rochester Medical Center officials approached Thomas Golisano about making a major gift to establish a new standalone children’s hospital, he took some time to think about it. Then he decided to give $20 million.
He kept that last part to himself.
When Golisano attended a July 2011 event to publicly announce his gift, university and medical center officials had expected the Paychex Inc. founder and chairman to tell the nearly 400 people attending that he was giving $18 million. But Golisano had decided to add $2 million to the gift—and did not let on to university officials until the official announcement itself.
As Golisano explained, the more he looked into the potential of the hospital, the more the project grabbed him.
“When they came to me with the idea, it took me a little bit of time to get my head around the numbers,” he said. “I worked on it, myself and (children’s hospital fundraising campaign co-chair) Mike Smith, and after a period of time we got to where it was a really great investment of my resources.”
The new $146 million tower, located on Crittenden Boulevard and attached to URMC, is a major upgrade to the former location. The building has eight floors and nearly 245,000 square feet of space dedicated to children and families.
The $20 million pledge brought Golisano’s total gift to the children’s hospital to $34 million, making him the university’s most generous living donor and among the top of all time. Golisano gave a $14 million naming gift in 2002 that enabled the hospital to start work on a new pediatric intensive care unit.
The Golisano Foundation also has given $1.6 million to UR’s Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities to establish the Institute for Innovative Transition.
Mike Smith, who is founder and CEO of the Cabot Group Inc., said Golisano’s generosity launched much of the fundraising efforts and even inspired his own gift.
“He’s been a good friend for many years, and when they say lead by example, I don’t think anyone leads better than Tom Golisano when it comes to philanthropy,” he said.
Smith made a $1.3 million commitment to the building with $1 million for naming the imaging/lower lobby area for former URMC CEO Bradford Berk, who now leads the Rochester Neurorestorative Institute at the medical center.
Golisano said he has been pleased to see the hospital take shape and is especially grateful for all the individual donations that helped make it a reality.
“I am so thankful for all the people who contributed,” he said. “There were a lot of individual sacrifices people made to be part of this.”
Golisano’s gift not only inspired fund-raising efforts, but also pushed development of the hospital itself, medical center officials said. URMC originally developed an expansion plan to build a tower that would house a combination of adults and children, but it was modified in November 2009 to add beds above the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center and expand imaging services in existing space.
Medical center leaders then had to decide what to do with Golisano Children’s Hospital, which had crowded rooms spread throughout URMC and facilities that university officials admitted did little to attract new pediatric physicians and specialized staff.
Golisano’s $20 million donation allowed URMC to create a dedicated and standalone children’s hospital. The new Golisano Children’s Hospital is expected to have an impact beyond the facility itself, with URMC officials saying it will draw some of the nation’s best physicians.
“This hospital will allow us to keep the finest faculty members and help us recruit against the biggest children’s hospitals for the best talent,” said Scott Rasmussen, senior vice president for advancement at Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Golisano has made similar gifts to fund children’s hospital projects in other communities. He issued a $20 million challenge grant in 2012 to build a new children’s hospital in Fort Myers, Fla., named the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
In 2005, he donated $6 million to Central New York Children’s Hospital at University Hospital in Syracuse. The facility was renamed the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Central New York at University Hospital in honor of his gift.
Golisano’s $20 million donation to fund the children’s hospital at UR will continue to make waves throughout the Rochester community, Smith said.
“I think this is very likely our community’s greatest asset,” he said. “Not only does it provide great health care in our community, but it’s also a tremendous asset if you’re an employer and you’re recruiting or hoping to maintain talent. It’s awfully meaningful for everyone to know that the highest standard for health care for children exists right here in Rochester.”
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