Syracuse Center of Excellence in Environmental and Energy Systems has awarded grants to four New York State companies through its Innovation Fund. Since 2014, the SyracuseCoE Innovation Fund has helped companies overcome barriers to the commercialization of potentially transformative products…
A Legacy Gift and New Institute to Advance Innovation in Life Sciences and Business
Charles (Charlie) and Carolyn Wheeler ’67 have been married and in business together for more than five decades. They have lived conservatively, which has allowed them to build an estate that achieves a shared dream—to help humanity for generations to come. Their recent gift to Syracuse University will do just that, advancing academic excellence and innovation in both the life sciences and business.
It all began when Carolyn graduated from Syracuse University in 1967 with a degree in psychology, sociology and the fine arts. The young coed walked into the Syracuse office of the British-based Royal Insurance Co. where Charlie was part of the leadership team. Carolyn had applied for a job as an underwriter. Charlie rejected her application—he was concerned about her lack of experience and the investment in resources the company would have to make to train her–but he was overruled by a hiring committee. Carolyn became the first woman underwriter hired by the company in the United States.
Six months later, Charlie married her.
“Charlie knew how to capitalize on the company’s investment,” says Carolyn with a chuckle. “And throughout our lives together, he has demonstrated a great business sense, putting us in a position to be able to make this significant estate gift to the University.” The Wheelers prefer to keep the total amount of their bequest confidential, but their extraordinary generosity will be recognized with their name on a new institute and two endowed professorships. Their planned gift advances the Forever Orange Campaign’s support of breakthrough and impactful research.
The vision for the Carolyn B. and Charles M. Wheeler Institute is to combine the talents, ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen among faculty and students in the life sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. The intent is to bring discoveries in life sciences to market safely and more efficiently to address global challenges in health and materials innovation. The collaboration among researchers, faculty and students in the Wheeler Institute will accelerate the development of breakthroughs in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease.
The institute will foster basic and applied life science research, while tailoring curriculum and research in finance, regulation and supply chains for specific business conditions in industries like pharmaceuticals and medical devices. There will be internships, experiential learning opportunities, professional development and networking, along with grants to help launch products and services emanating from life sciences research.
“The life sciences are essential drivers of health, as well as economic growth and employment,” says Whitman School Dean Gene Anderson. “The Wheelers’ generous gift will greatly advance the impact of the life sciences on the health of individuals and communities through the power of business.”
“We’ve known so many brilliant people who had great ideas but lacked the business acumen to bring those ideas to fruition,” says Charlie. “You can be extremely intelligent in the sciences, but you’ve got to have business sense in order to thrive.”
The Wheeler Institute will be led by two endowed professorships: the Carolyn B. Wheeler Endowed Professorship in Arts and Sciences and the Charles M. Wheeler Endowed Professorship in Whitman. The professorships will recognize highly accomplished faculty members and support them in taking their research and teaching to the next level.
“I am grateful to Charles and Carolyn Wheeler for their generosity in establishing the Wheeler Institute and its two new endowed professorships,” says College of Arts and Sciences Dean Karin Ruhlandt. “Thanks to the Wheelers’ visionary gift, students will develop the scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial insight needed to help push the boundaries in pharmaceutical and medical innovation for healthier communities, as the world continues to face down the pandemic.”
The Wheelers hope the new institute will attract the best and brightest students in biological research and business to Syracuse University. “They are our hope for a better future, to transcend all the problems our world is facing,” says Carolyn.
Five decades after they first got together, the Wheelers look forward to leaving a legacy, filled with promise. “We are so lucky to have achieved just about everything we’ve wanted to achieve in life and in business,” says Charlie. “We have had no desire to live an extravagant lifestyle,” says Carolyn. “Our desire now is to see this institute thrive, to bring even greater excellence to Syracuse University, and to produce the kind of talent that will change our world for the better and help humanity in the long run.”
About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private research university that advances knowledge across disciplines to drive breakthrough discoveries and breakout leadership. Our collection of 13 schools and colleges with over 200 customizable majors closes the gap between education and action, so students can take on the world. In and beyond the classroom, we connect people, perspectives and practices to solve interconnected challenges with interdisciplinary approaches. Together, we’re a powerful community that moves ideas, individuals and impact beyond what’s possible.
About Forever Orange: The Campaign for Syracuse University
Orange isn’t just our color. It’s our promise to leave the world better than we found it. Forever Orange: The Campaign for Syracuse University is poised to do just that. Fueled by 150 years of fearless firsts, together we can enhance academic excellence, transform the student experience and expand unique opportunities for learning and growth. Forever Orange endeavors to raise $1.5 billion in philanthropic support, inspire 125,000 individual donors to participate in the campaign, and actively engage one in five alumni in the life of the University. Now is the time to show the world what Orange can do. Visit foreverorange.syr.edu to learn more.