News and analysis
February 06, 2012

No. 33 (tied): Sidney and Lois Eskenazi

Amount donated in 2011: $40-million

Beneficiary: Wishard Foundation, the fundraising arm for Wishard Health Services

Donors’ background: Mr. Eskenazi founded Sandor Development Company, a real-estate developer in Indianapolis, where he serves as chief executive

Mr. Eskenazi, 81, and his wife, Lois, 78, pledged $40-million as an unrestricted gift to build a new hospital in Indianapolis, which will be named after them. A payment schedule has not be disclosed.

The gift came about when Mr. Eskenazi learned that the health-care organization had started a capital campaign, prompting him to approach the board chair of the Wishard Foundation to learn more.

As a result, Ernie Vargo, chief executive of the Wishard Foundation, and Lisa Harris, chief executive of Wishard Health Services, traveled to the Eskenazis’ winter home in Florida to talk with them about the project. Mr. Eskenazi initially planned to give $250,000 to the project but was so impressed after the first meeting, he suggested that the Wishard representatives “be bold” in their request.

Mr. Eskenazi says his desire to give so many millions of dollars stemmed from his personal connection to the hospital, dating back to his impoverished upbringing in Indianapolis. His neighbors went to Wishard (then known as City Hospital) during the Great Depression when they couldn’t afford care. “To find a kid from the south side [of Indianapolis] that started with nothing, to end up helping the city, the state, the people, his school, and to be able to do that—all of that—together at one time.,” said Mr. Eskenazi in a written statement to The Chronicle. “It’s pretty heady stuff, at least for me.”

The couple both graduated from Indiana University, which collaborates with Wishard as a primary teaching hospital. Mr. Eskenazi also holds a law degree from the university.

—Caroline Bermudez

View more profiles of donors who gave the most in 2011