Home / News & Videos / News / Leadership, Awards & Events /

AABGU Donors Honored Posthumously by Israel Embassy

AABGU Donors Honored Posthumously by Israel Embassy

May 15, 2018

Leadership, Awards & Events, Press Releases

The Marcus Family in 2005 at the dedication of the Marcus Family Campus. L to R: Jennifer Hill, granddaughter; Ellen Marcus, daughter; Howard and Lottie Marcus; then-President Prof. Avishay Braverman

The Marcus Endowment Is the Largest Ever Given to an Israeli University and Perhaps to any Israeli Institution

At the Israel Embassy event on May14 in Washington D.C. marking Israel’s 70th Independence Day, American Associates, AABGU donors, Howard and Lottie Marcus, were posthumously honored among  70 Americans who have made a uniquely valuable contribution to Israel and its alliance with the United States.

AABGU Chief Executive Officer Doug Seserman accepted the award on behalf of Ellen Marcus, their daughter and sole beneficiary, who was unable to attend.

The Marcus legacy gift, in excess of $400 million, was donated in 2016 to AABGU to establish the Ben-Gurion University Marcus Endowment Fund, of which a small percentage is distributed annually. The gift is the largest gift given to any Israeli university, and is believed to be the largest gift to any Israeli institution.

Israel Ambassador Ron Dermer with AABGU CEO Doug Seserman, accepting the medal on behalf of Ellen Marcus

“Both AABGU and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) owe a debt of gratitude to Howard and Lottie’s daughter, Ellen Marcus, who advised her parents to give the bulk of their estate to BGU,” says Seserman. “She is an extraordinary individual who derives satisfaction more from giving than receiving.”

Seserman also announces today that the first round of grants from the endowment has been allocated, totaling $15 million for a range of research, academic positions, buildings, and campus expansion to help develop the Negev. The grants are determined by the Marcus Endowment Advisory Committee and the BGU Grants Committee.

The vast majority of this year’s disbursements, approximately $9 million, is being appropriated for completion of the new BGU North Campus infrastructure. The remainder of funds is being allocated for various University initiatives, including water and other research and development areas, faculty recruitment and retention, and Centers of Excellence.

BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi with Ellen Marcus, who received an honorary doctorate from BGU in 2017

“My parents were passionate about Ben-Gurion University and the role it plays in the future of the Negev and the State of Israel,” says Ellen Marcus. “These annual grants help support a wide range of initiatives and especially their interest in water research.” Marcus, who lives in Austin, Texas, has served as a vice chair of BGU’s board of governors since 2006, is an AABGU board vice president and is Austin chair of AABGU’s Greater Texas Region.

Howard and Lottie Marcus both fled Nazi Germany in the early 1930s and met in New York in 1942. He built a dental practice in Manhattan. Lottie worked at a Wall Street firm as head of the secretarial pool. Through the Wall Street Ski Club, she became friends with Benjamin Graham, known as the “father of value investing.”

Lottie and Howard Marcus at BGU in 2005

In the early 1960s, Graham introduced the couple to his star graduate student in his class at Columbia University Business School, predicting that the young man’s new business would be very successful. That student was Warren Buffet, and the Marcuses were among Buffet’s first investors.

Buffet says, “We hit it off and they joined my investment partnership. Knowing them, it comes as no surprise that they elected to use their financial success to enhance the lives of thousands of Israeli young people.”

The Marcuses began supporting BGU in the late 1990s, funding a laboratory and scholarships in the fields of water, desalination and desert studies — research they hoped would support future peace in the region. The BGU Marcus Family Campus in Beer-Sheva is named in their honor in appreciation of the family’s magnanimous generosity.

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. Activities include showcasing BGU’s academic excellence and cutting-edge research through educational programs, events and informative communications. AABGU’s main purpose is to support Ben-Gurion’s vision and the university that bears his name by creating a community of Americans committed to improving the world tomorrow from the heart of the Israeli desert today.

Media Contact:
Andrew Lavin
A. Lavin Communications