West Virginia University presents Don Panoz with an Honorary Doctorate of Business for his achievement of international preeminence and distinguished leadership in the field and his record of sustained philanthropy
The son of a winning prizefighter, Don Panoz was born in Ohio and raised in a small West Virginia town. After attending Greenbrier Military Academy and doing a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, Panoz studied pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh. His career began in 1961 when he and Army buddy Milan “Mike” Puskar founded Milan Pharmaceuticals in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., making Panoz the youngest president of a pharmaceutical company in the United States. Milan evolved into Mylan and became one of the world’s leading producers of generic drugs. The company now sells an estimated 1,300 products to more than 140 countries and territories.
In the 1970s, at the age of 34, Panoz moved his family to Ireland, his mother’s birthplace, where he founded Élan Corporation. This company’s most famous development was the transdermal method of medication delivery, the technology that led to the nicotine patch. After going public in 1985, Élan set Wall Street records with three consecutive years of 100% profit growth. Élan was the first Irish company to be publicly listed on the U.S. stock exchange; today Panoz retains more than 300 pharmaceutical industry patents.
In 1980, Panoz and his wife returned to the United States and turned their attention to building world-class resorts – the first of which was Chateau Elan Winery & Resort located just north of Atlanta, GA. Following this success, Panoz built St. Andrews Bay Golf Resort & Spa located in the birthplace of golf – St. Andrews, Scotland, Diablo Grande Winery & Resort in northern California and Chateau Elan Resort and Golf Course in Hunter Valley, Australia.
His involvement in motorsports came as a result of his son Danny’s launching of a sports car company, Panoz Auto Development. The Panoz Esperante street car won many championships, including the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As owner of the American Le Mans Series and three racetracks (Sebring International Raceway, Road Atlanta and Mosport International Raceway), Panoz had prominent holdings in virtually every division of motorsports.
The first Panoz race team venture started with the Panoz GTR-1 in 1997. With support and encouragement from major sports car manufacturers such as Porsche and BMW, Panoz founded the American Le Mans Series – the leading sports car series in the world. Panoz is also a hybrid racing pioneer. In 1998 he unveiled the world’s first successful hybrid race car, which raced at the 1998 Petit Le Mans race. In 2006 a Panoz Esperante GT LM race car won both the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Panoz was awarded the coveted Spirit of Le Mans award by the L’Automobile Club d L’Ouest, organizer of the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Panoz is chairman emeritus of the board for Nanolumens, a designer and manufacturer of large-format LED displays. He founded SICOR Inc., a California-based pharmaceutical company, and co-founded HydroMentia, a water treatment technology company. Today Panoz is chairman of DeltaWing Technology Group.
In 2013, Panoz became the 29th inductee into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame, and he is a 2014 recipient of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America’s Bob Russo Heritage Award. Panoz has been inducted into West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics Hall of Fame.
Born into a very poor family during the depression, Don Panoz appreciates his success and is dedicated to giving back. He is known as Dr. Panoz as a result of his dedication and philanthropic contributions to Lynn University in Florida, Panoz Institute at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, the University of Georgia and West Virginia University. In 2009 Panoz joined other motorsports icons to give considerable financial support to “Malaria No More” to end malaria infestations in third world countries.