At 69 years old and one of the most prolific and renowned philanthropists in the area, one could hardly imagine a time when Patel was not a household name in Tampa Bay. But his bootstrapping success was never a given. Born in Zambia, Patel grew up ethnically west Indian in apartheid Africa. He was barred from white schools in his city at age 12, and moved hours away from his family to attend the only Indian school in the country. He went to medical school in Gujarat where he met his wife and lifelong counterpart, Pallavi. Together, they eventually moved to New York and finally Tampa. Patel has spent much of his life giving back to the places that left a mark on him, especially Tampa Bay. His philanthropy has touched multiple universities, the performing arts, and many more. Despite calling himself "retired" for the past decade, Patel shows no signs of slowing his work in Tampa Bay and beyond.
Years in St. Pete
Tampa Bay since 1982.
Organizations involved in
Socially, in our Indian community, our associations, temples, cultural center. In the broader category, I've been involved in the university, performing arts, I've been involved in multiple ways as a part of the community.
What gets you out of bed every day?
I like to say that you have to thank god when you wake up every day. Because you never know how long you are on this earth. The fact that you woke up is great but I get up every day with the energy and the passion to do what I enjoy best - which is some way I can get involved in society to do my part to see how I can make it a better place.
Why St. Pete?
In the early 80's, my brother had a motel here and I was doing my residency in the New York/New Jersey area. So the weather, especially in the winters drew me. In those days, this was a quaint, old city. Not much traffic, no bustle. Very laid back style. The Buccaneers were here, the University was here, the performing arts. It had all of the amenities of a big city, and yet you were in a small city. A tight community that is well integrated and looking after each other and yet having all of the good things of a place like New York or Miami.
What is one habit that you keep?
A tough question to answer but if 'Work Hard' is the habit, then everything I do I work hard and with passion.
who are some people that influence you?
My dad and my mom, but my dad more than anything. Ethics, morality, giving, those things came from the example of my dad. My mom nurtured us spiritually and ethically to be good human beings. I think those are my two role models to get me where I am today.
What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?
Follow your dreams, but understand that there is no short cut in life. Passion and hard work, persistence and remaining focused on wha tyou wnat to achieve. Don't expect miracles, there is no microwave in life, you have to earn it the hard way.
What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?
I would say not to be overly aggressive in pursuing too many things. I have been on a roll in the last 2-3 years doing lots of things, lots of projects. I feel that for me to enjoy life and do things I should slow down, focus on fewer things and not spread myself too thin.
I think rest is what I'm going to do but I doubt if I can pause from what I'm doing. I have dreams of building a university in India, in Zambia. So basically going forward, I want to spend a lot of time in philanthropy and primarily in the areas of health and education. Because transforming a society or an individual you need education along with health.