On June 3, 2009, the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) bestowed the Honorary Degree Doctor of Humanities and Letters to Theodore Kheel for his many important contributions to the medical school and humanity. The degree is the highest award bestowed by the medical college. Jake Kheel received the degree on his behalf.
Kheel, one of the Founders of PUNTACANA Resort & Club, has had a long and distinguished career in conflict resolution. Over the past two decades, his primary focus has been on addressing what he calls “the most urgent conflict facing humanity today,” the conflict between economic development and environmental protection. The New York Times declared him “the most influential peacemaker in New York City in the last half century,” and Business Week dubbed him “Master Locksmith of Deadlock Bargaining.” He has been called on by presidents, governors, and mayors to act as a mediator or serve on fact-finding boards. Kheel helped found several nonprofits including a 1,500-acre ecological reserve in the Dominican Republic and the Ecological Foundation.
Kheel has helped VCOM arrange a collaborative agreement with the Punta Cana Foundation and Dominican Ministry of Health to establish a permanent medical clinic for over 20,000 immigrant workers without health care in Veron, Dominican Republic. His philanthropic foundations helped to remodel the outdated government clinic where now 4 doctors, nursing staff, HIV/AID staff and VCOM medical students receive 70-90 patients per day. Mr. Kheel has provided guest accommodations at his Punta Cana residence for VCOM faculty and hosted VCOM students on mission trips.
He has catalyzed change in higher education through financial assistance, facilities for international conferences and advocacy for the Global Seminar for Environment and Sustainability, first originating at Cornell University and now affiliated with VCOM. This interactive network of over 50 institutions worldwide recently expanded to medical schools in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Honduras where VCOM has clinics to provide the Global Seminar for Environment and Health.