American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) announces a substantial gift of approximately $400 million from the estate of Dr. Howard and Lottie Marcus of San Diego, California. Lottie Marcus died this past December at age 99, just two months short of her 100th birthday, while Howard died in 2014 at age 104.
The legacy gift is believed to be the largest bequest on behalf of an Israeli university and may be the largest donation ever made to benefit any institution in the State of Israel. The funds will be used to establish a permanent endowment in support of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, which will yield endowment assets that more than double the size of the current University endowment.
The Marcuses first encountered BGU in 1997, and were captivated by its research primarily in the fields of water, desalination and desert studies. They supported research in those fields, including a laboratory and student scholarships. They believed that water solutions are the key to achieving peace in the Middle East. Shortly thereafter, they made the decision to leave the majority of their fortune to the University.
Lottie and Howard Marcus fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and lost most of their family members in the Holocaust. They immigrated to the United States and began to build a new life, Howard as a dentist, and Lottie as a secretary at a Wall Street firm. They subsequently met, fell in love, and married in New York.
The Marcuses gained their fortune as a result of a relationship with the legendary investor, Benjamin Graham. At the time, Lottie was working as the head of the secretarial pool at a major Wall Street firm. They became lifelong friends and, in the early 1960s, Graham told Howard and Lottie about a student of his at Columbia Business School, a young man he thought a prodigy. He invited that student, Warren Buffett, to meet with Howard and Lottie and they put most of their nest egg in Buffett’s new partnership, which later became Berkshire Hathaway. With annual compounding that investment grew.
Warren Buffett says, "I met Howard and Lottie more than 50 years ago -- through a mutual friend, my lifetime hero Ben Graham. 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."
In 2004, Lottie and Howard were awarded honorary doctoral degrees by BGU in recognition of their pioneering spirit, exceptional philanthropy and unstinting dedication to Israel and to Ben-Gurion University. The Marcus Family Campus in Beer-Sheva, named for them in 2005, reflects their magnanimous commitment to the University and to the fulfillment of David Ben-Gurion's vision to build a world-class institution of education and research in the Negev desert.
BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi: "Howard and Lottie Marcus were rare and special people. Holocaust survivors who lived a simple and humble life and joined their fate and their legacy to that of the State of Israel. Just as they viewed their fortune as merely a way to fulfill a greater mission - so to were they themselves - larger than life.
"Lottie and Howard are deeply missed, but their legacy will be felt in every BGU hallway and courtyard; in each classroom and laboratory; and by the faculty, students and staff who will be touched by their noble-spirited generosity for generations to come."
She concluded, "Lottie and Howard believed in the transformative power of the University to change the face of the Negev and to raise the next generation of researchers and leaders. This is an historic day, and not just for the University - their generosity makes a statement to Israel and the entire world."
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the youngest university in Israel, is counting up to its jubilee anniversary and continues to be the university with the highest rate of growth in Israel. In recent decades it has vastly expanded its fields of research and tripled its strength, in faculty and in students, which now number approximately 20,000. As a partner in the creation of the new Advanced Technologies Park adjacent to the University, BGU leads the vision to turn Beer-Sheva into the national cyber capital and to turn the Negev into Israel's Silicon Wadi. The growth rate will continue into the next decade when the University doubles its footprint in Beer-Sheva with the creation of North Campus closing the triangle between the University, the ATP and the new IDF technologies base to be completed in the coming years.