An American dream becomes a powerful gift

How the Ganatra family is building a legacy of generosity at Novant Health

From a simple room in a simple house, Tansukh Ganatra tells the story of his life.

He was born on the banks of River Nile in Jinja, Uganda. Subsequently, he attended university in neighboring Nairobi, Kenya, to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. Then, he and his wife, Sarla, migrated to the United States with $647 to their name and a recommendation that Rochester, New York, might be a good place to settle down.

The Ganatra family’s story is one of those quintessential tales of the American dream. He got a job shortly after he arrived in the U.S. as a student engineer at Rochester Telephone. He was good at what he did, and he worked hard. The next five decades brought a series of promotions and two successful forays into entrepreneurship. His last joint venture — with his trusted partner, Rick Aab, in the telecommunications business US LEC — resulted in a merger with PAETEC in a deal valued at $850 million. PAETEC, in which Ganatra held key roles, went on to merge with Windstream, a leading provider of advanced communications and technology solutions, for $2.3 billion.

Ganatra along with his family — he and his wife have a 48-year-old son, Rajesh — live modestly.  Over and over as he tells his life story, Ganatra talks about the simplicity of their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, which they have called home for the past 30 years. Instead, they have dedicated their efforts to distribute their money to worthy and noble endeavors.

“I gave away virtually everything to my son, and to his credit, he is a very simple and generous guy,” Ganatra said. “He decided to keep only 5% of what we gave him and elected to donate 95% of his money to charities, specifically to educational, spiritual, religious and medical institutions, which have helped others in their lives.”

By far, medical entities are the biggest beneficiaries of the Ganatras’ generosity, in large part because healthcare is deeply personal for the family.

“Quite simply, Novant Health has kept me and my family alive. Now, our goal is to help the generation of patients that come after us. We love Novant Health. They are part of our future. We give to them to ensure they can continue providing remarkable care to all.”

Tan Ganatra

Ganatra has personally exercised at Novant Health Heart & Vascular Institute for nearly 20 years.  When the family learned of plans to build a new, combined cardiac and cancer institute in Charlotte’s center city, they wanted to contribute. Now, when the Novant Health Claudia W. and John M. Belk Heart & Vascular Institute opens this fall, it will be home to the Tansukh, Sarla and Rajesh Ganatra lobby. The family has also funded a portion of the state-of-the-art cardiac rehabilitation space on the building’s third floor.

“Novant Health has done a remarkable job to keep me well, and their team has done the same for many others. Now, our goal is to help the generation of patients that come after us,” he said. “We love Novant Health. They are part of our future. They will benefit a lot while we are alive and a lot after we have completed our journey in this world.”

Novant Health is, in turn, deeply grateful for the Ganatra family’s ongoing relationship with Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center and, in particular, the new Heart & Vascular Institute, said Jan Wagoner, system leader for Novant Health cardio-pulmonary rehab and prevention.

“Tansukh, Sarla and Rajesh Ganatra are a most generous family,” Wagoner said. “Their hearts are open, and their kindness extends beyond this facility to fellow participants and our teams. We are grateful for their support of our mission to help our community thrive.”

Ganatra is now 78 years old. All told, he and his family have given substantial donations to causes in the Charlotte region and across the country. Their plan is to continue giving as long as they are alive.

“When you go, there is absolutely nothing you take with you — nothing, except results of your karma. That is the Hindu philosophy,” Ganatra said. “Along with me, my son and my wife believe in the theory of karma: If you are kind to people in this life, you will carry good karma into the next. Therefore, the mission of our life should be to do positive things for the people of the future.”

In the years since they moved to the United States, the Ganatra family has traveled throughout the world. Every single time they have returned to the United States, they have literally kissed the ground in gratitude that this country is their home.

“The U.S.A. is a magnificent country, and it is awesome and great, despite all of the upheavals we currently are experiencing,” he said. “This is one of the best places for survival, opportunity and growth. When you look at an individual like me who came in with nothing and has achieved so much and given away so much, it should be an example to others.”

You can follow that example by doing your part to support the work of Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation.

Your contributions are vital to continuing our commitment to remarkable care, and they present a valuable opportunity to leave a lasting impact on our community as a whole. Join us and make your gift today.

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