Why This Homebuilder Gave $50 Million to Help Build a Cancer Institute

Dwight C. Schar, founder and chairman of homebuilding and mortgage giant NVR and his wife Martha recently gave the Inova Health System in Virginia $50 million for a new cancer center that will be named after the couple. The funds will go toward "recruiting cancer specialists and affording them the equipment and facilities needed to advance their treatments and research."

Schar might not be a household name (excuse the pun) but his NVR Homes is one of the largest home builders by revenue in the country. Schar has also been finance chairman for the Republican National Committee, and owns an estate in Palm Beach, which he purchased from Ronald Perelman for a cool $70 million. Raised in Ohio, Schar worked nights at a pipe-fitting factory to pay for classes at Ashland College. While Schar is not currently on the Forbes billionaire list, he's been on there in the past.

The couple's philanthropy focuses on the Mid-Atlantic region and Ohio, with Schar's alma mater Ashland College receiving support. He's also given to Inova, George Mason University and a number of other institutions in Northern Virginia, but said the $50 million gift is his largest single donation to any cause.

What's the story here?

Well, true to his homebuilding ways, Schar has said that he was excited by the opportunity to build a medical outfit from the ground up that tackled a major health problem. As well, the planned Inova Dwight and Martha Schar Cancer Institute is part of a big, new 117-acre medical campus dedicated to "cancer research, genomics and personalized medicine." Timing definitely plays a role here, and capital campaigns and expansion projects often are marked by a flurry of gifts. 

It's also worth noting that NVHomes was founded in 1980, and does much of its business in the region. In fact, Schar mentioned that this gift was a chance to help a community that filled so many of the homes built by his company.

How's $50 million for a cancer research center for a "thank you?"