Also on Thursday, ribbon was cut for a new emergency facility built with a $5 million gift from the philanthropist.
TEMPLE TERRACE, FL: Ground was broken on Thursday morning for a $20 million charter school here, bearing the name of prominent Indian American cardiologist, entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel.
The Dr. Kircan C. Patel High School, slated to open in the next school year, will offer free education to students, who will learn courses in subjects such as science, math, English language arts and social studies. The school will focus on teaching through project-based learning and community mentoring, and fostering innovation and critical thinking.
“The best gift anybody can give is education,” Patel said speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony that was attended by his wife, Pallavi, other family members, a number of officials from the Hillsborough County and the City of Temple Terrace, and school board members.
The school, which is the brainchild of Indian American Ash Bagdy and his wife, Kavita, is being built on a 32-acre lot in Temple Terrace, a city of nearly 25,000 in the greater Tampa area, adjacent to the University of South Florida. The more than 50,000 sq ft building will have state-of-the-art classrooms, media room, project studios and a 15,000 sq feet gymnasium.
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The construction will be completed by July 2019 and classes for 9th and 10th graders will begin in August. School officials expect to enroll 300 students in the first year. Once fully functional, it will have 600 students.
Patel, who was born in Zambia and came to the United States after his medical education in India, said the reason he decided to support the school is to give a choice on education. “Today in certain neighborhoods, because of the economic conditions of their parents, the kids have no choice,” he said. “What we are trying to do in our little way is to provide an option to those that are committed to education, those that want to get out of the life cycle of poverty and build themselves.”
The philanthropist said his family foundation’s vision and commitment is to provide education and health globally. “Very few people are blessed to be able to do that — our family is very fortunate,” he said choking up.
Patel thanked the efforts of all the volunteers who worked to make the school a reality in less than three years.
“The most precious commodity that God has given us is time,” he said. “Money, anybody can make, but time, only God can give. When you spend a minute of that time in doing community work, building people’s lives, helping others — the contribution is priceless. And one should not forget that without people like you, nothing will happen. Somebody could write a big check. But if there are no hardworking, committed [and] dedicated team, that money will be wasted.”
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Other speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included Bagdy; Tamara Shamburger, chair of the Hillsborough County School Board; Jenna Hodgens, General Director of Charter Schools; and Mel Jurado, Mayor of Temple Terrace.
“You are the epitome of compassion, community service and humanitarian efforts,” Bagdy said addressing Patel. “While corporations of all sizes learn to be more efficient by observing your business savvy and while you give them a run for their money — you still do — the real beneficiaries of your business success are people around the world. You have made tremendous impact on the two things that matter most to all, education and healthcare.”
Patel, who has built several billion dollar businesses in healthcare and hospitality, has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to various causes and institutions in the United States, India and Africa. Most of the philanthropic works of the Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel Family Foundation have been focused on education and healthcare. Last September, the Patels committed $200 million to the Nova Southeastern University in their home state, the largest gift by an Indian American donor to date.
The school project was not the only celebratory event involving the physicians-entrepreneurs couple on Thursday.
In the evening, less than a mile away from the school construction site, Kiran and Pallavi Patel cut ribbon for a new emergency room expansion building at Florida Hospital Carrollwood, which is now part of Adventist Health.
The expansion was completed with a $5 million gift from the Patels.
The newly named Kiran C. Patel Emergency Department, which has a cath lab and an ER lab fitted with the latest technology, is expected to see 36,000 patients this year.
“It’s a landmark, game-changing donation,” said Erika Skula, the CEO of the hospital.
Patel, who moved to Carrollwood in 1982, said the hospital, which was then known as Good Samaritan Hospital, was instrumental in his success in the town. He worked part time at the emergency room there early in his career.
“This hospital has been a great facility for us early in our lives,” he said. “So it was important for me, as I am successful, that I give back to the institution that was there for me early in my life.”
He thanked the hospital for giving him an opportunity to be part of the institution and “create a magnificent emergency room.”
“I am only hoping that I never will be using it,” he joked.
After the ribbon cutting, attendees were given an exclusive preview of the facility.