NRI, Dr. Kiran Patel, with his wife, Pallavi, says
that as the world shrinks we need solutions across
Ecstatic USF gets
donation and a state match, totaling $34.5-million,
will allow USF to build the Patel Center.
By DAVID KARP, Times Staff Writer
Published May 20, 2005
TAMPA - The University of South Florida got the biggest
donation in its history Thursday, a gift worth $34.5-million
that USF hopes will place it on the world map.
The university will use the money from Dr. Kiran
Patel and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel, to build the
Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions on USF's
"The world is shrinking and becoming global,"
Patel, 57, said during an interview Thursday. "So
it's time to think global."
The $62.5-million center will become a place where
foreign leaders gather and researchers study issues
such as global hunger and international trade, university
"This really sets the university apart from
other universities in the world," said USF president
Judy Genshaft. "I really see this as a very unique
opportunity for the university. And in some ways,
it is a challenge to make this the best in the world."
The university planned a day's worth of events today
to celebrate the gift from Patel, a Tampa cardiologist
who was born in Africa, educated in India and made
millions as a health care executive in Florida.
The events begin with a briefing for 65 professors
and end with a 7 p.m. dinner at the Marshall Center,
which 1,000 people were invited to attend. "This
is incredible," an ebullient Genshaft said.
When built, the Patel Center could include four pavilions
to house scholars, a world-class conference center,
classrooms, a 500-seat auditorium, and facilities
to house foreign dignitaries.
It will be on Fowler Avenue just west of the Dr.
Kiran C. Patel Charter School and the Dr. Pallavi
Patel Pediatric Clinic, two other USF projects funded
by the couple.
The center will give USF faculty the backing to apply
for grants from foundations that have been out of
reach, said provost Renu Khator, one of the architects
of the idea.
"This will give us the launching pad to be competitive,"
Khator said. "The groundwork is there to take
this university to that next level of excellence."
Patel's $18.5-million donation include $10-million
to build the center, $2.5-million to operate it and
$6-million for an endowment. The donation will allow
USF to receive $16-million from a state program that
matches private donations to universities.
That brings the total value of Patel's gift to $34.5-million.
About $7-million of Patel's gift will be given only
after USF raises $14-million from other donors. Those
donations also can be matched by the state.
In total, the $62.5-million center will include $14-million
in private donations, $18.5-million from the Patels,
and $30-million in state matching funds over many
The gift makes the Patels the largest single donor
in USF history, said Michael Rierson, USF's vice president
for advancement. "It's a Rockefeller-style gesture,"
he said. "It's bigger than big."
Patel said Thursday he first began talking to university
officials about the idea three years ago.
By then, he had already established a reputation
for philanthropy. He and his wife have given $5-million
to build a school at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts
Center, $3-million for a heart-research institute
near University Community Hospital and $450,000 for
a charter school at USF, among other gifts.
Rierson, the USF fundraiser, recalls Patel asking
him: When are you going to ask me for money?
Before USF could solicit him, Patel pledged funds
for medical school scholarships. "I don't have
time for you guys to ask me for money," Rierson
recalled Patel saying.
Around campus, Rierson has turned Patel's name into
a verb - "We need to Patel that," meaning
USF should kick it in high gear.
Other universities had approached Patel, a USF trustee,
about donating to causes related to India, he said.
But Patel said he wanted to think bigger.
Having lived on three continents, Patel calls himself
a global citizen. Born in Zambia under apartheid,
Patel studied medicine in India under a British system,
and later built a small HMO in Tampa into a $1-billion
He met his wife, Pallavi, while both were studying
medicine in India in the 1960s.
He said he sees the world growing smaller and thinks
that to thrive, people must find solutions across
national boundaries. "The world is shrinking
very fast," Patel said. "And we want to
be on the edge and ahead."
Patel had been impressed by the work of USF's existing
Globalization Center. When it paid for New York Times
columnist Thomas Friedman to speak on campus, he told
Rierson: "This is what we need. This level of
debate about international issues."
As the idea grew, Patel flew with Rierson, Genshaft
and Khator on a USF donor's private plane to Houston
to visit the James A. Baker III Institute for Public
Policy at Rice University. The trip was a turning
point for Patel.
"Many world leaders always show up in New York
or Washington," Patel said. "But we always
get passed by. The primary reason is because we don't
have a reason for anyone to visit us."
Patel saw what an institute could create - only he
wants USF's center to go beyond just studying global
issues and find solutions. The Globalization Center
will eventually become part of the Patel Center.
"They wanted to make sure these academic ideas
do not sit on a shelf," Khator said of the Patels.