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Greensboro philanthropist makes transformative gift to promote wellness at UNCG

March 15, 2016
Greensboro philanthropist makes transformative gift to promote wellness at UNCG
image description Leonard J. Kaplan (left) and Tobee Kaplan (right).

The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) announced today a $5 million gift made by Tobee Kaplan in honor of her late husband, Leonard J. Kaplan. Her gift, which will create an endowment in support of health and wellness programs on the UNCG campus, will be recognized by the naming of the new wellness center located at 1301 W. Gate City Blvd. as the Leonard J. Kaplan Center for Wellness. The UNCG Board of Trustees voted to approve the naming for the facility at a special meeting called Tuesday morning.

Leonard Kaplan, who died last April at the age of 86, is remembered by many for his generosity and selflessness. He grew up in High Point and attended UNC Chapel Hill, but was forced to leave when his father became ill and he needed to return home to run the family’s janitorial supply company. While running the family business, he completed his degree at High Point University and, after serving in the Army during the Korean War, built Kay Chemical Company into a worldwide supplier of cleaning products.

Rendering of Center for Wellness, exterior shown at street level entry

A street-level rendering of the entrance of the Leonard J. Kaplan Center for Wellness. This view is from the intersection of West Gate City Boulevard and McCormick Street.

Leonard Kaplan and his wife made an indelible mark on the community through their extraordinary record of philanthropy and leadership. Together they established the Kaplan Family Foundation (later renamed the Toleo Foundation). The foundation has been active in furthering the causes of education, health, social services and community improvement. The Kaplans led the effort to establish the Moses Cone cardiac unit, were instrumental in building a new home for the Women’s Resource Center and have been tireless supporters of Greensboro Urban Ministry, the United Way and Habitat for Humanity.

The Kaplans have also been great supporters of the Jewish community in Greensboro, helping to build the Greensboro Jewish Federation Building, the Beth David Synagogue education building and the new home for Temple Emanuel.

Through the Toleo Foundation, the Kaplans have also supported significant arts programs and organizations in Greensboro including the Tanger Center for Performing Arts, the Greensboro Symphony, Triad Stage and the Eastern Music Festival. Among their many recognitions for philanthropy and service, the Kaplans received the Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad in November of 2014.

Rendering of Center for Wellness, interior view

An interior rendering of the Leonard J. Kaplan Center for Wellness from the north end of the facility looking south.

UNCG Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam Jr. expressed the university’s appreciation for the gift, saying, “We are profoundly grateful to Tobee Kaplan and the Kaplan family for this transformative gift, which will allow the university to build a more vibrant campus community. The Kaplans are true pillars of our community and we are proud that our new wellness center will bear Leonard J. Kaplan’s name.”

The Leonard J. Kaplan Center for Wellness will serve as a vital resource for UNCG’s growing and increasingly residential campus. UNCG enrollment reached record levels during the 2015-16 academic year, with more than 19,000 students registered. It is noteworthy that 81 percent of first-year students live in campus housing. The Leonard J. Kaplan Center for Wellness will play a key role in giving thousands of students, staff and faculty access to facilities and activities that promote physical fitness and healthy lifestyle habits. UNCG has been recognized as a national model for creating a healthy college environment that promotes academic success, having recently been selected as one of just five universities in the nation to receive the prestigious Active Minds Healthy Campus Award.

Asked about her decision to make this gift, Tobee Kaplan said, “Leonard was a humble man, and putting his name on a building isn’t something he would ordinarily have done, but he truly believed that it was our responsibility to make a better world for the next generation. I think he would have been proud to be associated with UNCG’s efforts to promote mental and physical wellness.”

A naming ceremony and ribbon-cutting will be held in the fall. More information on the new wellness center may be found at campusrec.uncg.edu/kaplan-center.

 

Renderings provided by RDG Planning & Design and Walter Robbs Callahan & Pierce Architects, PA