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Charles Wang's philanthropy helped at home and around the world

Wang started a nonprofit to provide free cleft surgeries, developed a cultural center at Stony Brook University, and supported a law school in China named after his father, among other charitable efforts.

The Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook

The Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University pictured in 2012. The $52 million center was at the time the recipient of the largest donation from an individual to the SUNY system.  Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

Charles Wang's philanthropy reached around the world.

It extended from helping fund more than 1 million cleft lip and palate surgeries in developing countries to a $52 million cultural center at Stony Brook University.

Wang started the New York Islanders Children's Foundation, funded health centers in Manhattan and Queens, contributed to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and supported a law school in China named after his father, among other charitable endeavors.

In 1998, he endowed the Charles B. Wang International Foundation to direct his philanthropic efforts. 

A year later, he founded the nonprofit Smile Train, which has provided free cleft surgeries to children in more than 85 countries.

"He was passionate about kids all over the world who didn't have access to surgery," Michael J. Dowling, president and chief executive of Northwell Health, and also a Smile Train board member, said of Wang. "Kids who otherwise would not have had access to health care have it because of Charles Wang and his vision."

Smile Train officials said in a statement on the organization's website on Sunday, "Charles was the driving force behind Smile Train and the reason why so many deserving children continue to receive the care they so desperately need.

"His legacy will live on forever in the smiles of the faces of the children we help and in the hearts of everyone who was fortunate enough to know him," officials of the Manhattan-based agency wrote.

Within a couple years of establishing Smile Train, Wang built and donated the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University to celebrate Asian and American cultures. The $52 million donation, which opened in 2002, was at the time the largest given from an individual to the SUNY system.

Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., called the cultural center "an international hub bringing Asians and Americans into a common space, a marketplace of cultural awakenings and ideas for the 21st Century.

"It is a proverbial bridge between cultures, and a welcome home to all students of every nationality, every race and religion. It is a monument to his vision and will continue to be for generations to come," Stanley said in a statement.

In 2015, when Wang received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Stony Brook, he advised graduates in a commencement speech to remember some of life's simple lessons.

“One, you can make a difference. What you do does really matter," he said. "Two, integrity and loyalty — they are only words until they've tested. Three, live life to the fullest …and four, those who know me know I say it all the time, have fun.”

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children named its Alexandria, Virginia, headquarters building for Wang. He also supported the Kenneth Wang School of Law at Suzhou University in China, named for his father.

In 2001, Wang established the New York Islanders Children’s Foundation, dedicated to supporting children and youth organizations.

Wang also supported the growth of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, with three locations in Manhattan's Chinatown and two in Flushing, to allow it to expand the delivery of quality affordable health care to the underserved.

With David Reich-Hale

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