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3:16 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Medical community lauds Wilson's philanthropic legacy

Along with founding and owning the Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson Jr. was also a philanthropist whose contributions often came without fanfare.

In 1999, Wilson established the Ralph Wilson Medical Research Foundation. Its past chairperson, Dr. Candace Johnson, now Deputy Director of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, says the Foundation has contributed more than $11 million to medical research, including $2 million for cancer research at Roswell.

Credit Buffalo Bills

Johnson says Wilson was a compassionate and generous man. She says his contributions translated into more than $12 million worth of grants for Roswell.

"He wanted to understand where this money was going," Johnson tells WBFO News. "He was very interested in trying to learn more about where his dollars were going and never really wanted to have him name out there. He did this pretty selflessly and without a lot of publicity."

Johnson says Wilson was passionate about medical research across all areas, including neurologic and spinal issues that affect football players.

"He chose Roswell Park because he wanted to do something in the community. He wanted to give back to the Buffalo area," Johnson says.

Wilson also supported education and established scholarship programs at Canisius College and St. John Fisher College in Rochester, where the Bills hold training camp each summer.

He also made sizeable donations to the University at Buffalo, Kaleida Health, and the United Way. 

Wilson died Tuesday at the age of 95. His cause of death has not been revealed, though his health had been failing in recent years.