Cody Cousino / Photo editor
As the banner for the newly renamed Wexner Medical Center was unveiled, Leslie H. Wexner wiped tears from his eyes as “Carmen Ohio” was sung in the background.
Wexner, an Ohio State alumnus, was honored Friday with the renaming of the Ohio State Medical Center to Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University.
“I want to thank everyone for this unique honor,” Wexner said at a ceremony commemorating the renaming. “It is humbling and in a way, thrilling. But mostly what I feel emotionally is kind of, ‘Why me?'”
The OSU Board of Trustees voted unanimously Friday morning to rename the hospital in honor of Wexner’s leadership and service to the university in the last three decades, President E. Gordon Gee said in an email to faculty, students and staff.
“With our action today, the Board of Trustees has expressed to the world the university’s gratitude for the selfless commitment that the Wexners have shown to this university,” Alex Shumate, member of the Board of Trustees, said at the ceremony.
Wexner acknowledged the contributions of his wife, Abigail, to the community and said his recent donation of $100 million to the university last February was largely from her.
“The gift was made, was really instigated and solicited by her, of us,” Wexner said. “This is very much a gift from us … and the whole family, it should really be thought of and remembered that way.”
A graduate of the university in 1959, Wexner said if it were not for OSU, he would not have attended college, and that his collegiate experience shaped his life.
“That exposure and just openness to society and meeting different people, certainly was a game-changer for me,” Wexner said. “It forms you.”
Wexner shared that he remembers “vividly in college walking past the construction of Mershon Hall” on campus.
“Pretty soon this building was up and it has somebody’s name on it,” Wexner said. “And I thought, ‘Why would they do that?’ It seemed so odd to me, that somebody would care in such a way and want their name on a university building.”
Wexner, CEO of Limited Brands, has donated more than $200 million to OSU and, as a member of the University Campaign Steering Committee, has played a vital part in propelling the growth of the university’s endowment, which is now more than $2 billion, according to a press release. In February 2011, Wexner donated $100 million to the university meant to be used primarily for the medical center, Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, Richard J. Solove Research Institute and Wexner Center for the Arts, which was the largest single donation in the history of the university.
Wexner has served on the Board of Trustees for 16 years, and as board chair he has played a key role in the $1 billion expansion of the medical center, according to a press release.
In the email, Gee said the renaming “recognizes the critical work the Wexners have undertaken to ensure The Ohio State University Medical Center is able to solve some of medicine’s most persistent challenges and change lives for the better.”
Wexner said he has faith in what the medical center can achieve.
“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,” Wexner said in the release.
The medical center was created in 1834 and has since excelled to have 11 specialities highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report, according to their website.
Larry Martin, lead technologist for MRI research at the medical center, has been at the hospital for 22 years and said he does not think Wexner’s lack of medical connection is important.
“I don’t think it really matters if you’re a medical person or not,” Martin said. “I think the fact that you want to contribute to the process, to the cure, to the cause, is great.”
Closing the ceremony, Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, CEO of the medical center, presented Wexner and his wife Abigail with white doctor coats with the new medical center name and logo.
“There is no greater honor that could be bestowed upon our Medical Center than having the Wexner name, and for that, we just can’t thank you enough,” Gabbe said.
The Wexners’ contributions have been more than financial, said Brandon Mitchell, graduate professional student trustee on the Board of Trustees.
“The resources, not only financial, but the man hours that they’ve put in, make this an extraordinary reference by the university as a kind of thank you,” Mitchell said. “To be able to give something of this magnitude to them, I think it’s amazing.”
Because speeches are often not remembered, Wexner took a moment to speak to his children, in hopes they would remember what’s most important.
“We try to make the world a better place,” Wexner said. “And I think it’s important that as you grow up, you think about that.”