Milan "Mike" Puskar, the co-founder and former chairman of generic drug maker Mylan Inc. and a philanthropist who gave tens of millions of dollars to West Virginia University, died Friday night at home after battling cancer. He was 77.
University officials praised Puskar in a statement as a successful businessman who was "able to help so many others, and he took great pride and care in his generosity to West Virginia University."
Mylan, a Fortune 500 company with headquarters in Canonsburg, Pa., also has a factory in Morgantown, where Puskar lived.
He was its chairman from 1993 to 2009, when he retired and turned the reins over to Chief Executive Robert Coury. Puskar also served as president for 25 years.
Puskar co-founded the company in 1961 in White Sulphur Springs with an Army buddy, Don Panoz, moved it to Morgantown and helped turn it into what is now the world's third-largest generic and specialty pharmaceuticals company.
Mylan started as a distributor, buying and reselling drugs to pharmacies and doctors until 1966, when it got federal approval to manufacture its first drug, Penicillin G. Three years later, according to the company's website, it started producing Tetracylcine.
As the company grew, so did its physical facilities: It built a national distribution center in North Carolina, added a manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico and acquired several companies through the early 1990s. It hit $1 billion in sales for the first time in 2002, and today employs more than 18,000 people.
"Mike was a pioneer in many ways and helped to create the generics industry as we know it today," Coury said in a statement. "Those of us who knew Mike personally will always remember him as a strong leader, thoughtful mentor, generous benefactor and faithful friend. His greatest gift to Mylan, however, was his insistence on high quality. Through this determined focus on quality, Mylan raised the bar for the entire generic pharmaceutical industry."
Puskar's influence in Morgantown and at West Virginia University was profound: In 2003, he donated $20 million to the Building Greatness fundraising campaign, a gift the WVU Foundation says remains the largest one-time cash gift in the school's history.
Of that gift, $14.5 million went to athletics, and the stadium at Mountaineer Field now bears his name. The other $5.5 million supported academic and leadership programs.
"His gifts came in the form of scholarships for students, funds for WVU athletics, support for cancer research and many other endeavors," WVU President James Clements said in a statement. "We will miss his presence at ball games and in our communities, but his mark will be permanently left behind in our hearts and on our campus."
Foundation spokesman Bill Nevin said Puskar also supported the School of Pharmacy, WVU Hospitals, WVU Children's Hospital, the School of Medicine, the Rosenbaum Family House and other WVU entities over the years.
In 2005, he was the first recipient of the foundation's Outstanding Philanthropist award, and in June, that award was renamed to honor him. He served on the foundation's board of directors from 1997 to 2000.
A 1960 graduate of Youngstown State University in Ohio, Puskar was inducted into the Order of Vandalia, the highest honor WVU bestows. He also received honorary doctorates from WVU, Duquesne University and Fairmont State.
Wayne King, president and CEO of the WVU Foundation, said in a statement that Puskar "embodied the true meaning of generosity by transforming and enriching lives through his philanthropy."
"From academics to athletics, Mike's love for WVU was evident in the depth and breadth of his support," King said. "His legacy of giving to WVU and the Morgantown community will live on for decades to come."