MORGANTOWN, W. Va.,None - 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. Puskar 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."
"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."
Mylan, a Fortune 500 company with headquarters in Canonsburg, also has a factory in Morgantown, where Puskar lived.
Puskar 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.
"Mike was a pioneer in many ways and helped to create the generics industry as we know it today," Coury said. He praised Puskar as a strong leader and thoughtful mentor who insisted on high quality, adding, "Through this determined focus on quality, Mylan raised the bar for the entire generic pharmaceutical industry."
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.
His 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.
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.