A Man's home is his castle - and a novel way of giving

Almost a century ago, famed financier and philanthropist Otto Hermann Kahn built Oheka Castle. Situated in the middle of a 443-acre plot on the highest point of Cold Spring Harbor, New York, the French-style chateau was — and remains today — the second-largest private residence ever built in America.

Mr. Melius and his daughter, Kelly, receive a contribution acknowledgment from Richard Barakat, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for the Regional Care Network and MSK Cancer Alliance
Mr. Melius and his daughter, Kelly, receive a contribution acknowledgment from Richard Barakat, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for the Regional Care Network and MSK Cancer Alliance.

During the 1920s, Mr. Kahn used the 127-room estate as a summer home where he hosted lavish parties, entertaining royalty, heads of state, and Hollywood stars. After Mr. Kahn's death in 1934, the estate changed hands several times and was finally abandoned — except by vandals.

The Castle Lives On

In 1984, developer Gary Melius purchased Oheka and began the painstaking job of restoring it to its original splendor. "When I first saw Oheka, even in what was then its dilapidated state, I fell in love," says Mr. Melius.

His meticulous restoration turned the castle back into a private home as well as a hotel and estate that has become a venue for weddings and other celebrations as well as corporate retreats.

Mr. Melius and his wife, Pamela — both longtime supporters of Memorial Sloan Kettering — were looking for a unique way to give to MSK that went beyond donating money. And then they hit upon it: the castle!

A Different Way to Help

For a number of years, MSK has hosted Health Education Donor Seminars (HEDS) around the country to give supporters an opportunity to learn from MSK experts about the latest discoveries and advances in cancer research and treatment.

Mr. and Mrs. Melius had expressed interest in hosting an MSK event at Oheka, and the opportunity at last presented itself: They worked with the Office of Development to donate the venue, the food, and the staff for the September 2014 HEDS.

Presenting at the seminar were gynecologic surgeon Richard Barakat, Deputy Physician-in-Chief of the Regional Care Network and MSK Cancer Alliance, who acted as master of ceremonies; breast surgeon Lisa Sclafani, who gave a talk entitled "Evolution in the Management of Lymph Nodes in Breast Cancer"; and head and neck surgeon Bhuvanesh Singh, whose presentation focused on the 100th anniversary of MSK's Head and Neck Service and was titled "A Century of Progress: A Future of Promise."

"It's fitting that the Kahn family motto was 'Ever Restlessly Forward' because in my mind, this describes Memorial Sloan Kettering perfectly and the tireless work the institution does to advance research and treatment and improve the lives of people with cancer," observes Mr. Melius. "It has given my wife and me great personal satisfaction not only to have been able to support MSK financially but also to have found a new way to bring the fruits of the discoveries of its clinicians and scientists to more people."