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A Humble Life Leads to a Historic Donation

A Humble Life Leads to a Historic Donation

August 4, 2016

Leadership, Awards & Events

Great Neck Record — After investing with Warren Buffet in the early 1960s, Holocaust survivors Howard and Lottie Marcus’s assets grew exponentially. What they decided to do with their fortune is truly remarkable.

The couple left $400 million to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the largest single donation any university in Israel, and possibly any university in the world, has ever received.

“Their modest nest egg turned into one of the great philanthropic fortunes,” says AABGU Executive Vice President Doron Krakow.

“They came to believe in the leadership and vision of the BGU presidents.”


From left: BGU then-President Prof. Avishay Braverman, Lottie Marcus, then-Israel President Shimon Peres, and Dr. Howard Marcus on a visit to BGU in 2005

The couple had no direct connection with BGU until after they retired and moved from Great Neck, New York to San Diego, California. There they got to know BGU through AABGU’s Southwest regional office.

Over time, a relationship began to grow between the Marcuses and the University as they became acquainted with more members of the community. “The members of the University community became like extended members of their family,” says Krakow.

Howard Marcus was a dentist who fled Germany and migrated to Italy during the breakout of hostilities against European Jewry. He was finally able to escape Italy as well, very narrowly avoiding arrest and imprisonment during a time of heavy Jewish persecution there.

Lottie, also from a German-Jewish family, was able to escape before Hitler’s total consolidation of power, but her brother and parents were killed shortly after she departed.

Their eventual meeting, marriage and unprecedented philanthropy are a triumph over the forces of hate that took so much from them.

“This is not typical philanthropy,” says Krakow. “This couple gave the entirety of their wealth and they lived basically anonymously throughout their lives. Nobody would have known. Nobody could have known.”

Read more on the Great Neck Record website >>