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John and Char Kopchick

John and Char Kopchick

Photo courtesy of: The Kopchicks

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Two OHIO faculty/staff members top The Promise Lives Campaign over the $450 million goal

John and Char Kopchick’s $2 million commitment will support programs in molecular and cellular biology, and translational biomedical sciences

Athens residents and Ohio University faculty/staff members Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar and Distinguished Professor John Kopchick and his wife Char, assistant dean of students for campus involvement, have committed $2 million in support of academic programs as part of Ohio University’s The Promise Lives Campaign – pushing the Campaign over its $450 million goal.

“The Kopchicks provide an extraordinary illustration of not only the passion OHIO's faculty and staff have for this singular place, but also of the potential each member of our community has to make a difference,” said Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis.

“John and Char demonstrate the value that OHIO places on mentorship, teaching and research,” said McDavis. “Their work with undergraduate and graduate students influences thousands of students every year. John’s discovery of the growth hormone antagonist drug SOMAVERT® has resulted in more than $80 million in royalty income that has supported biomedical research and technology commercialization initiatives. I’m grateful to John and Char for their tremendous gift commitment, which is just one more way that they are giving back to Ohio University.”

The Kopchicks’ commitment will support graduate student fellowships, faculty research, undergraduate student research and scholarly activity, as well as research awards and operational funding in the University’s program in molecular and cellular biology (MCB), which spans five academic units. The gift also will support a new interdisciplinary program in translational biomedical sciences.

“This gift will provide an incredible opportunity for interdisciplinary education among our students and research among our faculty,” said Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate College Joe Shields. “The new program in translational biomedical sciences will have an impact across the entire University. The Kopchicks’ generosity will be realized in perpetuity and will grow the University’s programs that translate basic scientific research into practical applications to enhance the human condition.”

Supporting the development of this new program – and providing support for its future – is a natural fit for John Kopchick.

“It’s my honor to make this gift and to be able to watch this new program in translational biomedical sciences become a reality, and to be a part of it, and to work to bring it together,” said John Kopchick. “This kind of research is often called ‘bench to bedside.’ That’s what we have been doing and are continuing to do. We always hope to translate basic science into something useful. In fact, we were doing it before the words ‘bench to bedside’ were first used. So, I’m very excited to support the MCB and translational biomedical sciences programs.”

Ohio University recruited John Kopchick in 1986 to fill The Milton & Lawrence H. Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar Endowed Professorship. A combination of private funding from the Goll family and from the state of Ohio made Kopchick’s move from private industry to the academy possible. He continues to serve as the Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar and is a Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and Edison Biotechnology Institute.

Char Kopchick earned her master’s degree in college student personnel from Ohio University’s Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education in 1988 and has been an OHIO employee for 25 years. Previously the University’s director of Health Promotions, in her current role as assistant dean of students she oversees the Campus Involvement Center (CIC), which positively influences the OHIO experience for thousands of students each year. The CIC includes the functional areas of Health Promotion, Campus Programming, Community Service, Off Campus Living, the Performing Arts Series and Greek Life.

“Ohio University has been very good to us both academically and professionally,” said Char Kopchick. “Following in the footsteps of Milton and Pauline Goll, the couple who endowed John’s faculty position, the Goll Eminent Scholar, it is now time for us to ‘Pay It Forward.’ We want to provide other students and faculty with the opportunities Ohio University so graciously provided us.”

In his 28 years at OHIO, John Kopchick has built a culture of discovery, collaboration, cross-disciplinary research and of celebration. He calls it a “work hard, play hard” environment.

In his laboratory at the University’s Edison Biotechnology Institute, undergraduate students do “hard core science” along side graduate students and faculty. Whether the projects are large or small, they have the potential to yield big discoveries.

“It’s too easy to give a young student just learning science a relatively easy assignment working in the lab. They may seem like small projects to me, but to those students, it’s a big deal. When they get results, it could be easy for me to overlook it. But, we don’t do that! In particular, we try to celebrate all results … big or small,” said John Kopchick. “It’s all about the students.”

“One of the things that brings me great joy is to see our students mature from being an incoming undergraduate or graduate student to becoming a Ph.D. or a D.O./Ph.D.,” he said. “To see them go out and to be excited, to experience their energy … and to see them remember the things that we taught them is a very exciting emotion for me.”

A scientist whose research has led to drugs that treat previously incurable diseases, John Kopchick knows what it means to make a difference.

“It doesn’t get any better than when a patient calls you, or e-mails you and says: ‘Dr. Kopchick, my surgery didn’t work. It was a death sentence until your drug came along. Thank you,’” said John Kopchick. “I have had at least 10 e-mails or calls like that … and it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s very humbling and brings tears to my eyes.”

The Kopchicks’ commitment paves the way for future interdisciplinary scientists, for translational discoveries, for treatments and therapies … and for more phone calls to say thank you.

The Kopchicks hope their gift encourages other faculty and staff to ‘step up’ and give something back to OHIO.

“We are privileged to be able to work here at OU,” said John Kopchick. “It’s also an honor to be able to instruct and mentor our students. Thus, a thank you to OU on behalf of the faculty and staff is very fitting.” 

The Promise Lives Campaign topped over its $450 million goal in April 2014, 14 months ahead of the June 30, 2015, deadline. Already securing more than $450.86 million, the Campaign continues to raise funds in support of students, faculty, programs, partnerships and select facilities at Ohio University.