It was a lucky day for central Ohio when Leslie Wexner was born.
Wexner graduated from The Ohio State University, started The Limited Stores in central Ohio and saw them grow into a huge retail conglomerate, and has never forgotten his central Ohio roots. Earlier this week Wexner, his wife Abigail, and The Limited Foundation gave a $100 million gift to Ohio State. That gift, which Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee aptly characterized as transformative, is just the latest example of Wexner’s profound impact on central Ohio, its citizens, and its business community.
It is hard to imagine what central Ohio would be like without Les Wexner. His philanthropic efforts are legendary. At Ohio State, he has contributed millions toward the construction of the Wexner Center for the Arts and the Les Wexner Football Complex at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The latest gift will benefit the Wexner Center for the Arts and various entities within the OSU hospitals. Other local beneficiaries of Wexner’s generosity include Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Wexner Heritage Village — among many, many others.
As impressive as Wexner’s charitable activities have been, however, he has had an even more profound impact on central Ohio as a capitalist. The Limited and its various affiliates, subsidiaries, and spin-offs have employed thousands of central Ohioans and brought many new, creative people to our community; those businesses and the taxes paid by their employees have contributed millions toward the coffers of local governments throughout the area. The Easton Town Center, which Wexner developed, is one of the premier mixed-use shopping areas in the nation and attracts many out-of-towners to our fair city. And the house where Kish and I live wouldn’t be here but for Wexner and his decision to launch a new suburb in New Albany, a formerly sleepy farming community in the far northeast corner of Franklin County.
People may disagree with Les Wexner’s views about how Columbus or Ohio State should address certain issues. No one can dispute, however, that Wexner’s generosity and business skills have had an enormous impact in shaping the Columbus in which we now live.