What does a college do with a $200 million commitment? For one, build a new campus

A rendering of Nova Southeastern University’s planned expansion to a new campus in Tampa Bay.
A rendering of Nova Southeastern University’s planned expansion to a new campus in Tampa Bay.

Nova Southeastern University is expanding to a new Clearwater campus, thanks to a record-setting donation from a Tampa-area couple.

The $200 million philanthropic commitment — NSU’s largest ever — from cardiologist Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife, pediatrician Dr. Pallavi Patel, will go toward $50 million in scholarships and building a Tampa Bay Regional Campus on the former site of Clearwater Christian College.

“Its impact can never be overstated,” NSU President George Hanbury told an audience of students and NSU board members at a Monday news conference. The expanded footprint of the university, he said, allows “literally all of South Florida — east coast and west coast — to experience what their philanthropic gift can do.”

The future 27-acre campus will offer the same programs as the main campus in Davie, including occupational therapy, physical therapy and audiology, as well as serve as the second campus for the osteopathic medicine program, an alternate medical degree that is similar to a medical doctorate program but with a focus on integrated health and manipulative techniques like massage.

The new Clearwater campus is expected to open in 2019, a deadline that Kiran Patel called “amazingly aggressive.” That year, NSU expects to graduate 380 doctors of osteopathy a year, more doctors than any school statewide.

NSU, a private nonprofit university with about 23,000 students, also plans to add a traditional M.D. program next year at its Davie campus, along with a new teaching hospital that will replace Plantation General Hospital. Hanbury said this could push the total number of student doctors graduating annually to 600.

Patel bought the college in December and planned to open his own medical school, but Hanbury persuaded him to partner with the university instead in what Patel called “the smartest and wisest decision.” Patel said that going through the university rather than on his own saved him about two years in what can be a five-year process.

“We firmly believe the best gift anyone can give anyone is education,” Kiran Patel said.

In return, NSU named two colleges after the donor couple.

The osteopathic program was named after Dr. Kiran Patel, making him the first person of Indian descent to have a U.S. medical school named after him. The college of health sciences was named after Dr. Pallavi Patel.

The scholarship money will help students at any of the NSU regional campuses, which are located in Miramar, Miami, Palm Beach Gardens, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Orlando and San Juan, Puerto Rico.