On an early September day in 1999, the late John Frederick (John F.) Wolfe, ’99 HON, took the podium in St. John Arena to deliver his commencement address to The Ohio State University’s soon-to-be graduates.

Recognizing this was a seminal moment not just for the students, but also for those who supported and encouraged them along their journey, John F. reflected on the importance of paying forward.

“For each one of us, the most important test of life is: What did you do with what you were given?” he told the audience. “Most of you today have enormously greater opportunities than your parents and grandparents, because of their sacrifices. You honor their memory and build a better society by paying forward.”

John F. was well-known as the publisher of The Columbus Dispatch, while also serving as chair and CEO of The Dispatch Printing Company. He was the paper’s last Wolfe family publisher before it was sold in 2015.

That unwavering spirit of altruism — of remembering and repaying kindness to others — underscored John F.’s life and has remained the cornerstone of his legacy since his death in 2016.

Dr. John F. Wolfe giving a commencement address
“Each of us can lead a life that will be worth living,” John Frederick (John F.) Wolfe said during his commencement address on Sept. 2, 1999.

It also has inspired the Robert F. Wolfe and Edgar T. Wolfe Foundation, chaired by John F.’s widow Ann Isaly Wolfe, to honor his memory with a $50 million leadership philanthropic commitment to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s inpatient hospital tower, scheduled to open in 2026. In recognition, the new tower will have two named spaces — the John F. Wolfe Lobby and the Wolfe Foundation Crossroads — pending approval by the university’s board of trustees at its February meeting.

A press conference was held Feb. 19 on the medical center’s campus to announce the gift, which is one of the most generous in Ohio State’s history.

“Few people know, or will ever know, even half of the good works John F. Wolfe and Ann Wolfe put their shoulders behind to benefit Columbus and central Ohio. They preferred to be a quiet force for good with lasting impact,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. “I think John F. Wolfe would be delighted about his family’s continued efforts to improve the quality of life in central Ohio, and health care is vital to quality of life.”

“This is a special day for our university, our region and our state,” said The Ohio State University President Walter “Ted” Carter Jr. following the announcement. “John F. Wolfe’s family and the Wolfe Foundation are building on his lifelong commitment to creating a bright future for the Columbus community. We are grateful for their remarkable investment in the inpatient tower and our medical center. It will enable us to continue serving Ohioans and providing expert care to patients and families that is at the forefront of medicine.”

“Patients and families are at the center of everything we do at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, and our new inpatient tower will further ensure that we are able to provide the very best care for everyone, every time.” John J. Warner, MD, CEO of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and executive vice president at Ohio State

“Through this generous, transformational gift honoring John F. Wolfe, the Wolfe family and the Wolfe Foundation remain steadfast in their commitment to improving people’s lives within our community. John F. Wolfe’s legacy as a community leader and philanthropist is still helping to shape the skyline of Columbus, and we are honored that our vision for the future of the Wexner Medical Center aligns with what he and others envisioned for the future of central Ohio and the entire state,” said Dr. Warner.

State and civic leaders, along with leaders from Ohio State, pay tribute to the visionary legacy of John F. Wolfe and the Wolfe family.

New inpatient tower transforms the skyline and health care in Ohio

As the largest single facilities project in Ohio State’s history, the 24-story inpatient tower will house up to 820 beds — replacing and expanding the 440 beds in Rhodes and Doan halls — and bring together multidisciplinary care teams, the latest technologies and leading-edge research and innovation.

With embedded diagnostic, treatment and inpatient services, the hospital will have dedicated floors for clinical specialties like infectious disease, stroke, neurological and spinal care, trauma, sepsis and respiratory failure and organ transplantation. Other prominent features include a reimagined three-floor Center for Women and Infants — including a new neonatal intensive care unit in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital — along with expanded surgical and imaging capabilities, indoor and outdoor respite spaces and larger patient rooms.

Ohio State’s new inpatient tower during construction
Large windows throughout the inpatient tower create optimistic, light-filled spaces that enhance the patient experience and promote healing.

The Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute also will benefit from its adjacency to the tower with 148 additional cancer-designated beds. Both the John F. Wolfe Lobby on the ground floor and the Wolfe Foundation Crossroads, located on the tower’s second floor, will serve as primary physical connection points to The James.

Construction on the inpatient tower is 75% complete. It promises to deliver optimal patient-centered health care right here in Columbus — a cause close to John F.’s heart that his family and the Wolfe Foundation continue to champion.

A multigenerational commitment to community

To those who knew him, John F. often would say a city’s success is never guaranteed; it depends on a commitment to continual improvement from everyone in each generation.

Like his father Preston Wolfe, his cousin John Walton (John W.) Wolfe, and others in the family who came before him, John F. was fully committed to realizing central Ohio’s potential. From horticulture to health care, he was a deeply influential albeit understated civic leader who understood that advocating for and investing in the city’s institutions and public spaces strengthened the community fabric.

John F. Wolfe and his wife, Ann, at a speaking engagement
Inspired by a love for his hometown, John F. (pictured here with his wife, Ann, in 1992) helped shape Columbus and influenced its growth through his leadership, service and philanthropy.

In addition to his family’s close associations with the Franklin Park Conservatory, the Columbus Zoo and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, John F. generously lent his influence, time and resources to Ohio State — a place he once described as “the crown jewel of this state’s system of higher education.”

John F.’s legacy of impact at Ohio State

Alongside John W., John F. was instrumental in the construction of the original James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. Since opening in July 1990, The James has grown exponentially. When the inpatient tower opens, The James will become one of the largest cancer hospital in the United States.

John F. WolfeJohn F. further stewarded the vision for and growth of Ohio State through 20-plus years of service on numerous boards. As a member of Ohio State’s Foundation Board, he helped guide two of the university’s most substantial fundraising campaigns. He also chaired the Master Planning and Facilities Committee on the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center Board in support of the long-held ambition to create and cultivate a nationally renowned health care system in Columbus.

It’s therefore fitting that the Wolfe Foundation would honor his life and legacy by making its latest commitment to the inpatient tower as part of the Time and Change Campaign, Ohio State’s current $4.5 billion fundraising endeavor.

The gift is the capstone to the family’s multigenerational philanthropic investments in several initiatives across Ohio State, ranging from cancer research and mental health care to veterinary medicine, athletic facilities and study abroad scholarships.

The Wolfe family and its namesake foundation also have previously established a remarkable eight endowed chairs and professorships across the university and medical center. These permanent positions have been appointed to notable leaders such as Athletics Director Gene Smith and Andrew Thomas, MD, the medical center’s chief clinical officer.

“John F. and the Wolfe family have been the catalyst of so many of Ohio State’s accomplishments over the course of multiple decades,” says Dr. Thomas, who was honored as the inaugural Wolfe Foundation Chief Clinical Officer in 2021. “It's inspiring to see how Ann, her family and the Wolfe Foundation have continued to carry on John F.’s legacy, with this leadership commitment to the inpatient tower.”

How John F. Wolfe and the Wolfe family have shaped Ohio State

The Wolfe family and others at the grand opening of the hospital
Bringing cancer care to Columbus
The James opened its doors in July 1990, realizing a vision long held by the Wolfe family. “The advocacy and support of John W., John F. and the Wolfe family changed cancer care in our community and beyond,” says David Schuller, MD, the first CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute.
Group shot
A deepened commitment to The James
In 1994, the Wolfe Foundation established an endowed chair in cancer research, and John F. and Ann were honorary co-chairs for the 1997 Up on the Roof Fundraising Gala. Their daughter Rita Wolfe (not pictured) also was a James Foundation Board member for many years. “We’re grateful for the Wolfe family’s longtime partnership in our vision of creating a cancer-free world,” says David Cohn, MD, interim CEO, chief medical officer and the Stuart M. Sloan – Larry J. Copeland, MD, Chair in Gynecologic Oncology.
 John F. Wolfe is conferred with an honorary degree
“Each of us can make a valuable contribution”
After delivering his commencement address, Ohio State conferred John F. with an honorary Doctor of Journalism and Communication on Sept. 2, 1999. The same year, the Wolfe Foundation established The Wolfe Study Abroad Scholarship within the university’s Office of International Affairs.
John F. Wolfe speaking
A dedication to service
In 2006, John F. concluded nearly 10 years of service on Ohio State’s Foundation Board, helping to guide two of the university’s most substantial fundraising campaigns at the time. He co-chaired the Affirm Thy Friendship Campaign that exceeded every individual goal and raised $1.23 billion for Ohio State.
View of the inpatient tower construction
Spurring a new vision for health care
In 2013, John F. began serving on the Wexner Medical Center Board, chairing the Master Planning and Facilities Committee and spurring the vision for the current campus expansion that includes the inpatient tower and Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Center. “Mr. Wolfe’s work championing these facilities is furthering our excellence as a leading academic medical center,” says Carol R. Bradford, MD, dean of the College of Medicine, vice president for Health Sciences and the Leslie H. and Abigail S. Wexner Dean’s Chair in Medicine.
Ann and John F. Wolfe
Celebrating excellence
Ohio State honored John F. and Ann with the coveted Everett D. Reese Medal at its annual Celebration of Excellence event in 2014. The Reese Medal is Ohio State’s highest philanthropic recognition that celebrates exceptional leadership, service and commitment to the university.
Wolfe family at the OSU football game
Continuing to pay forward
In 2015, John F. and members of the Wolfe Foundation were honored as part of the Department of Athletics’ Pay Forward Society for the foundation’s gift to create The Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletic Director position, which was inaugurally appointed to Gene Smith in 2016.
Dean Rustin M. Moore with Wolfe family
Championing Veterinary Medicine
The Wolfe family is passionate about improving the health of the Columbus community, including animals. In 2016, the Wolfe Foundation created a professorship in the College of Veterinary Medicine, and sisters Katie Wolfe Lloyd (left) and Rita (right) are active members of its Philanthropy Council. “The Wolfe family continues to be integral in our ambition to Be the Model College of Veterinary Medicine in the world,” says Rustin M. Moore, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVS, dean and Ruth Stanton Chair in Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Thomas with Wolfe family
Investing in health care leadership
In 2021, the Wolfe Foundation established The Wolfe Foundation Chief Clinical Officer Chair, its eighth endowed position at Ohio State. Andrew Thomas, MD, whom Ann said “represents the very best of our health care community,” was named the first-ever Wolfe Foundation Chief Clinical Officer.
New inpatient tower building
Building upon John F.’s legacy of impact
The Wolfe Foundation announced its transformational $50 million commitment to the medical center’s inpatient hospital tower in 2024. The tower will be home to the John F. Wolfe Lobby and the Wolfe Foundation Crossroads that connect the tower to The James.

    A new era of growth and health care

    Four generations of the Wolfe family have served Columbus and nourished its growth since brothers Robert F. and Harry P. Wolfe first arrived in the late 1880s.

    Today, Ohio’s capital city is one of the nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas. Its population of more than 2 million people is projected to exceed 3 million in the next 10 to 15 years, accentuating the need for Ohio State’s expanded, state-of-the-art inpatient tower.

    With nearly two million square feet, the tower will be the city’s 10th-tallest building. Inside, Ohio State will usher in a new era of health care from the moment the first patient comes through the John F. Wolfe Lobby.

    Patient-centered care has guided every aspect of the hospital’s development, and that includes fully designing and equipping it for team-based care that brings providers from different specialties and support services to the patient.

    The building’s interdisciplinary focus extends to discovery and education, allowing more collaborative research and clinical trials to be facilitated throughout its floors. Higher patient capacity also will mean increased opportunities for tomorrow’s medical leaders to learn alongside Ohio State’s experts in various specialties.

    A rendering of the new Ohio State inpatient tower when it’s complete
    The inpatient tower reflects Ohio State’s tri-partite mission to improve health in Ohio and beyond through innovations and transformations in research, education and patient care.
    John J. Warner speaking at a press conference
    Watch a recap of the February 2024 announcement of the historic $50 million gift to the hospital tower at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

      When it opens, the inpatient tower will mark a tremendous period of growth and development for the medical center. Just down the road from the new hospital is the recently opened James Outpatient Care building featuring central Ohio’s first Proton Therapy Center built in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital. New outpatient facilities in New Albany and Dublin serve patients closer to where they live and work.

      These facilities represent Ohio State’s commitment to meet and exceed the unique health care needs of the rapidly growing central Ohio region. Philanthropy continues to play a critical role in the medical center’s campus expansion, with donations fueling more than just bricks and mortar.

      Supporting capital projects like the inpatient tower can ultimately help accelerate progress toward new discoveries, clinical innovations and learning opportunities for the next generation. As a result, giving — the act of paying forward — can help ensure healthier futures for more people, while also enhancing Columbus’ long-term vitality.

      “My father was passionate about improving the health of everyone in our community, and he saw that Ohio State could make a difference,” said Katie Wolfe Lloyd, daughter of Ann and John F. and a trustee of the Wolfe Foundation. “We are proud to honor his legacy of gratitude, selflessness and generosity through this gift, and we also hope to inspire others to support the inpatient tower. The new hospital is essential for our region, as it will serve people throughout their lives.”

      John F. Wolfe’s legacy inspires a healthier future for our city

      Give in support of the Wexner Medical Center’s new inpatient tower and help us transform health care.

      Give today

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