Kohlis’ $1.1M gift to YSU reflects history of giving


Prominent Youngstown neurosurgeon Dr. Chander Kohli and his wife, Karen, have long distinguished themselves as sturdy pillars to the enrichment of the Mahoning Valley.

The highly respected neurosurgeon who practices at Mercy Health Youngstown has given of his time and his resources lavishly and unselfishly over the past five decades. His record of public service and philanthropy is exemplary. A partial rundown of those services includes stints as president of the Mahoning County Medical Society, a faculty member at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, president of the Medical Staff Clinical Executive Committee at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital and founding president of the American Association of South Asian Neurosurgeons. He’s also served effectively on the boards of trustees of both Youngstown State University and NEOMED.

His wife, Karen, has shared her husband’s passion for improving the human condition as a registered nurse and remains front and center in a variety of health-care agencies and initiatives in the Valley.

So the generous $1.1 million gift the couple made last week to YSU’s $100 million “We See Tomorrow” capital campaign for comprehensive university improvements likely surprised few. It does, however, continue a praiseworthy Kohli family tradition of building a richer quality of life – or in this case, a richer quality of higher education – in Northeast Ohio.

Many will recall Dr. Kohli’s philanthropy to NEOMED in Rootstown. He and his family donated $500,000 to support academic technology and online course materials at the university. The couple also donated $500,000 in 2011 to create the Aneal Mohan Kohli Academic Technology Endowment, named in memory of their son.

The couple’s newest gift furthers the goal of the largest capital campaign in YSU history, ensures state-of-the art instructional training and resources for a new wave of students and appropriately pays tribute to the Kohlis’ beloved son, Aneal, who died way too soon about 10 years ago.

PUBLIC PHASE BEGINS

The “We See Tomorrow” campaign quietly began about three years ago. Over that time, more than $50 million was raised. The Kohlis jumped on board recently at the start of the public phase of the campaign with their $1.1 million donation. Dr. Kohli also serves as a member of the capital campaign cabinet.

The campaign, which will fund a variety of initiatives ranging from launching a student success center to building scholarship support to beautifying the physical campus, comes at a critical time for public colleges and universities across Ohio.

As YSU President James P. Tressel stated at a recent campaign event at which the Kohlis were recognized, “Higher education is at the most challenging moment in its history, financially.” He cited declines in state and federal funding support for the overall need for a bump in private giving in order to keep YSU attractive to 21st century students and competitive with its rival institutions in the region, state and nation.

The Kohlis’ gift funds more than 20 percent of a key $5 million element of the campaign – Classrooms of the Future. Their gift will finance creation of 18 such classrooms, which will be fully equipped with cloud-based systems for wireless presentation, whiteboarding and video conferencing.

Dr. Jim Yuckech, YSU associate vice president and chief information officer, touted the importance of the gift: “This high-tech system could positively impact our ability to increase online class offerings and certainly will enhance our student experience through video lectures and conferencing.”

The Kohlis’ latest good works, like those at NEOMED, also serve a much more personal mission for the parents of Aneal Kohli. It will keep his memory alive in a most productive and appropriate way. Just as the name of the NEOMED library and endowment honor Aneal, so, too, will each of the 18 Classrooms of Tomorrow. After all, Aneal had an intense passion for computer-aided design and contemporary video technology.

Taken together, the personal and community-minded motivations behind the Kohlis’ benevolent gifts stand out as models for others to follow in the university’s ongoing campaign and for other philanthropic causes in the Valley.

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