Donald Soffer: Friend of Brandeis University

Brandeis University at Night. Photo courtesy of Leo Felici.

Donald Soffer was born in Duquesne, near Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, in 1930. In 1955, he graduated from Brandeis University, not far from Boston, with a BA in economics, on a football scholarship. He immediately returned to Pittsburgh and began to build shopping malls for Don Mark Realty. Pittsburgh’s first indoor mall was built in 1965 by Don Mark, called South Hills Village.

When Soffer’s father died at the age of 63 in 1972, Soffer took over the family interest in DonArt Partnership, which owned 785 acres of predominantly swampland in South Florida, purchased in 1967 for $6 million. In 1977 his partnership with Arlen Realty ended due to a dispute about quality and speed of construction. Soffer believed shoddy construction done too quickly would hurt the brand. Soffer’s share of the properties became Turnberry Associates.

In 1983 Arlen went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and Soffer purchased the last 68 acres of undeveloped land and turned into the now upscale Miami Aventura Mall. In 1988 Soffer sold his share in Turnberry Isle Resort to Rafael Hotels for $20 million. In the 1990s Soffer handed over responsibility for Turnberry to his son Jeffrey, who handled new condos; and Soffer’s daughter Jacquelyn “Jackie” Soffer was handed the reigns for leasing operations at the Aventura Mall.

The largest donation in the history of Brandeis University came from Donald Soffer, who gave the school $15 million in 2008.

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