For the second time in 16 months, the John R. Oishei Foundation of Buffalo has flexed its considerable financial muscle to improve the nascent and fast-growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
In September 2012, it gave $10 million and won naming rights for the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, successor to Women & Children’s Hospital. Late last month, it announced a $5 million gift to the University at Buffalo Medical School, which is moving to the downtown Medical Campus. That gift pushed UB nearly to the halfway mark in its private fundraising goal for the $375 million school.
The gift is a tremendous boost to the growth of the campus, which many expect to become an increasingly powerful driver – medically and economically – for Buffalo and Western New York. That is all to the region’s benefit but so, it must be said, is the Oishei Foundation and its leader, Robert D. Gioia.
John R. Oishei made his fortune in windshield wipers, which he was the first to develop for automobiles. He established the Trico Products Corp. in Buffalo nearly a century ago. He established the foundation in 1940, with a mission that includes improving education and health care. It has nearly $278 million in assets.
In its 2013 Grantmaking Report, the foundation indicates that it directed $8.8 million toward health care projects last year, accounting for 43 percent of its grants, program-related investments and loans. The next closest area of concern was education, where its financial commitments amounted to $4.6 million – also a substantial figure.
Of the gift to UB, Gioia said: “The Oishei Foundation recognizes the new UB Medical School as a game-changing addition to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It will redefine our region as a hub for the very best in health care.”
Gioia is not satisfied with leading one of Buffalo’s most important and valuable foundations. He is also chairman of the board of Great Lakes Health, the organization created to bring Kaleida Health and Erie County Medical Center under a single umbrella.
He is also chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., established to oversee the growth of the Buffalo waterfront. And he is otherwise active in the community’s civic life. He recently joined with other business leaders in an unsuccessful effort to buy out Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela C. Brown, seen by many as unable to do the job necessary.
Successful communities have organizations like the Oishei Foundation to help push them forward. And they produce citizens like Gioia, who seems to thrive on the challenges of making Buffalo a better place for the people who live here.
Oishei and Gioia are hardly alone. Western New York is fortunate to have several such organizations and individuals in its corner, but few are as active and effective as the Oishei Foundation and its overachieving leader. They are focused on a goal and seem determined to achieve it. Good for us.