Dr. David S. Wilkes and Dr. Toni Eldridge Wilkes Give $1 Million to Support Villanova’s Center for Access, Success and Achievement

A renowned educator, researcher, innovator and practitioner of pulmonary medicine, Dr. David Wilkes was recently awarded the highest honor of the American Thoracic Society


Dr. David S. Wilkes and Dr. Toni Eldridge Wilkes Give $1 Million to Support  Villanova’s Center for Access, Success and Achievement

VILLANOVA, Pa. (June 5, 2024) — Renowned specialist in pulmonary disease, military veteran and recent winner of the American Thoracic Society’s highest honor, Villanova trustee Dr. David S. Wilkes '78 CLAS and his wife, Dr. Toni Eldridge Wilkes, a medical practitioner in obstetrics and gynecology, have given a transformational $1 million gift to Villanova’s Center for Access, Success and Achievement (CASA) to address its most urgent needs and further bolster its comprehensive academic, professional and personal programming.

Initially established in the mid-1970s to support 40 commuter students, CASA has grown significantly in scope with a team of counselors, life coaches and graduate assistants who provide academic, social, economic and emotional support annually to more than 500 underrepresented and first-generation students. CASA students have gone on to win prestigious awards and fellowships, seek advanced degrees and pursue successful careers in various fields. Centrally located in Villanova’s Falvey Library and open 24 hours a day, CASA provides access to tailored services and support that many students would not otherwise have, allowing them to pursue meaningful opportunities, shape their futures and accomplish their dreams.

“At its core, Villanova’s mission is to empower students to reach their fullest potential, and CASA is instrumental in fulfilling that mission,” said University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD. “CASA’s impact on our students is undeniable, providing not only academic support but also fostering personal growth, resilience and a sense of belonging. Through CASA, our students succeed academically and emerge as confident individuals who go on to become leaders in their fields.”

Distinguished physicians in their respective fields, Dr. Wilkes and Dr. Eldridge Wilkes have dedicated their lives to medicine and the betterment of people’s lives. This ethos carries through to the Wilkes’ philanthropy, which has focused on programs to enable highly qualified students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds to thrive in college and beyond. Their gift will enable CASA to provide its students even greater support through its various programs and services, including academic mentorship, one-on-one counseling, tutoring and financial support for experiences such as study abroad.

“Toni and I are honored to give back and support this area of campus that continues to change the lives of so many of our students,” said Dr. David S. Wilkes. “CASA provides an environment in which all Villanovans feel valued and included. As a Villanova graduate and trustee, I hope this support will fulfill ongoing and future needs of students to, in the words of St. Augustine, become what they are not yet.”

A celebrated educator, researcher, innovator and practitioner of pulmonary medicine, Dr. Wilkes was awarded the Edward Livingston Trudeau Medal in 2024. The highest honor bestowed by the American Thoracic Society, the Medal was given in recognition of Dr. Wilkes’ major contributions to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of lung disease. In 2020, he was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Medicine by his peers. 

Dr. Wilkes has held numerous notable roles throughout his distinguished career. He was dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine from 2015 to 2021 and currently serves as dean emeritus. Dr. Wilkes co-founded ImmuneWorks Inc., a biotech company that develops novel therapeutics for life-threatening pulmonary diseases and has served as its chief scientific officer since 2005. Since 2006, he has served as the National Director of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a program that seeks to increase underrepresented minority physician-scientists at leading U.S. medical schools. Dr. Wilkes is also a military veteran, having served three years as a major in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps. He received his BS in Biology from Villanova, his MD from Temple University and completed a post-doctoral fellowship in pulmonary and critical care at University of Texas Southwestern Medical. He met and married his wife, Toni, while both were in medical school at Temple, and she went on to practice obstetrics and gynecology for two decades.

“We are immensely grateful for David’s and Toni’s generosity and their understanding of how the holistic support CASA provides—and its power of connection—is unmatched when it comes helping students at Villanova find their sense of purpose,” said Linda Coleman '78 VSB, Director of CASA. “Their commitment to education and empowerment aligns perfectly with our mission, and this contribution will enable us to expand our reach, offer more comprehensive services, and ultimately make a profound impact on the lives of all students who come through our doors.”

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit www.villanova.edu.