Polishing Jewels of Columbus (Ohio)

  • Local Projects
  • 2012

Leslie Wexner lived the immigrant dream. Born in Dayton of Russian parents, he majored in business at Ohio State University. He continued on to law school before deciding business was much more interesting. He dropped out, got a $5,000 loan from an aunt, and started a young women’s sportswear store in 1963. It eventually grew into Limited Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, and other popular companies.

Wexner believed Ohio State University had a lot to do with his success. “Attending this university changed my life,” he said flatly. He made his first donation, $5, three years after getting his degree. In 1989, he gave $25 million to create the Wexner Center, a “research laboratory for all the arts” that university president Gordon Gee called “one of the crown jewels of Ohio State.” Wexner subsequently gave the center $50 million more, plus a $42 million Picasso painting.

In 2011, the Wexners pledged $100 million to expand Ohio State’s hospital, which serves a wide region while also training doctors (and where all four of the Wexner children were born). That brought the family’s total giving to the university to $200 million. Wexner also put in 16 years of service on the school’s board of trustees, while his wife was active on the medical-center board.

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