Kohlis’ $3.9M Gift Will Help Excellence Training Center Add New Tech

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Just a few short weeks after Youngstown State University officially opened the Excellence Training Center, a new gift from longtime benefactors will ensure the space is kept up-to-date with new technology as the years go on.

On Monday, Dr. Chander Kohli and Karen Kohli, his wife, were honored for their $3.9 million gift that will see the building that houses the training and workforce development center named in their honor – Kohli Hall. 

The gift follows a $1.1 million donation made in 2017 that allowed the university to upgrade 17 classrooms with Cisco Spark stations, virtual learning environments and video conferencing tools. Combined, the two donations match the largest private gift in YSU’s history.

“The outside was finished but I don’t think they were wrapped up inside yet,” Chander Kohli said of his first visit to the Excellence Training Center about four months ago. “They brought us over here to show us what the building was because of the 17 classrooms of the future at the university and they wanted to add two more. We said, ‘Sure, we’ll do that.’ When we came here, we asked what the name was and they told us there wasn’t one yet.”

Karen Kohli holds up a 3D-printed Pete the Pengiun that was made for her and Dr. Chander Kohli during one of their tours of the Excellence Training Center

Two classrooms inside the building, fitted with much of the same equipment as the “classrooms of the future” as the previous 17 rooms, bear the name of the Kohli’s late son, Aneal Mohan Kohli, who died 13 years ago at age 31. Aneal, Kohli said during a speech at the ceremony, was a technology teacher for the family.

“He was my master of technology,” he said. “[This gift] was really something for how the future looks. Technology has changed so much over the years I’ve been here that I thought, ‘The new generation has to learn,’ and this was the place to start.”

Combined with the initial 2017 gift, the Kohli family’s giving to the We See Tomorrow fundraising campaign has totaled $5 million, matching the largest private gift in the university’s 113-year history.

“It means everything. The legacy of this gift will be here for generations. There’s an immediate component of the funding that will infuse new dollars into this building, but it also includes an endowment to support the Excellence Training Center,” said Paul McFadden, president of the YSU Foundation. “We’re so fortunate that the Kohlis have decided to do this for the university.”

Although both Chander and Karen Kohli had long careers in medicine – Chander as a neurosurgeon and Karen as a nurse – supporting the Excellence Training Center honors both the early dream of Chander to be an engineer and the community that has grown to be their home.

“We’ve really loved this community since we’ve been here. They’ve given us everything we wanted,” Chander Kohli said. “We have family here. I had a practice here. People have been kind. I’ve served on the YSU board and the board of NEOMED. This community has given me so much and I want to give something back.”

After serving as a medical officer in the Indian armed forces, Chander Kohli came to the United States in 1966 for a surgical residency at Elyria Memorial Hospital. Six years later, he opened his own private neurosurgery practice in Youngstown. In the year’s since, he’s served on the boards of both Youngstown State and Northeast Ohio Medical University and made major donations to both colleges, often in honor of Aneal.

With Kohli Hall the newest named building on campus, being able to share that story – Chander arrived in the U.S. more than $600 in debt, from Elyria Hospital buying his plane ticket and other trips between airports paid for by friends – with the community.

“It’s always fun to have a name attached to something and be able to tell those stories. Who was the Beeghly family? They were Standard Slag and part of our heyday and players in the steel industry,” said YSU President Jim Tressl. “Now, we’re able to tell the story of someone who came and worked and learned his craft. Think about when we started as a neurosurgeon 50 years ago and now. He knows that that’ll be the case in manufacturing and his gift means our students will be part of an ongoing development. With the training here, they can mirror his career.”

Part of the $3.9 million gift for the Excellence Training Center will support an endowment to pay for ongoing support of the center, including buying and installing new technologies, maintenance, expansion and new program initiatives. 

“Their gift takes this to the next level because you can never have all the equipment you want to have, all the finishing touches. Having an account to continue developing is so valuable, especially in the technology field; technology ends up costing more and it changes so much,” Tressel said. “This is absolutely huge for YSU.”

Opened in July, the center is a $12 million joint effort between YSU, Eastern Gateway Community College, Youngstown City Schools, America Makes, the Youngstown Business Incubator, local career centers and companies. It features equipment and lab areas that can be used perform research, train workers and provide education on the latest technology the industry has to offer.

“This is going to bring students from a lot of other places. This isn’t something that most places have. It’s very unique in the area and I think it’ll attract a lot of people,” Karen Kohli said.

Pictured: YSU President Jim Tressel presents Dr. Chander Kohli with the plaque that will be installed on Kohli Hall in honor of the family’s $3.9 million donation to support the Excellence Training Center.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.