Les Wexner was born to Russian immigrant parents who taught him to work hard and pay attention to detail.
Wexner credits Ohio State with helping him translate those values into business savvy: He earned a degree in business administration in 1959, four years before he founded Limited Brands with a single store in Columbus. Since then, the company has become a $9 billion business empire with more than 2,600 stores across the nation.
"But for Ohio State and the education I received," Wexner says, "I never would have started the business."
President E. Gordon Gee says Wexner's $100 million gift represents "a transformative moment in the history of this university." The largest philanthropic gift in Ohio State's history, Gee says, "will make an enormous difference in generations to come."
“The most important institution in our community is The Ohio State University.”
—Les Wexner, Class of 1959
The gift will primarily benefit The Ohio State University Medical Center, the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, and Ohio State’s Wexner Center for the Arts.
Wexner hopes his gift can change the world for the better--perhaps helping Ohio State researchers find a cure for cancer. "We can do it here. We can do it now," he says. "There is no utility in saying 'maybe.'"
Giving back to his alma mater has always been a priority for Wexner. He is chair of Ohio State's Board of Trustees and helped found The Ohio State University Foundation. Previous philanthropy has included gifts to the Wexner Center for the Arts (named for his father) and the Les Wexner Football Complex at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
"I love Ohio State, and all the good it does," he says. "The most important institution in our community is The Ohio State University."
Gee sees Wexner's gift as a powerful example of paying it forward.
"Students understand community-building," Gee says, "and when they see someone of his stature and his ability doing it on their behalf, it is an incredibly important message."
Wexner also would like to see the gift inspire his fellow Buckeye alumni to pay it forward.
"I hope this gift stimulates those who have received an education here, or been touched by this remarkable institution, to think about how they, too, can give back," he says.