Cooperman and Columbia

givingApart from his generosity as a philanthropist of the Columbia Business School, together with his wife Toby Cooperman, Leon G. Cooperman is manager of the Leon and Toby Cooperman Foundation, which in 2014 pledged $25 million to the Saint Barnabas Medical Center enabling the construction of its  200,000 square-foot Cooperman Family Pavilion.

Being co-signatories of The Giving Pledge – “a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of the wealth to giving back,” the Coopermans are extremely integral to the entire world of philanthropy, charity and volunteer work.

Vis-à-vis the Columbia Business School, Leon Cooperman has been exceedingly generous in his large monetary donations.  Herewith in chronological order are examples of his major investments in the academic institution:

  1. 1995: endowment of the Leon Cooperman Professorship of Finance and Economics
  2. 2000: establishment of the Leon Cooperman Scholarship (to support financial aid for need based students).
  3. 2007: establishment of the Cooperman Scholarship Challenge (assisting in the formation of more than 40 need-based scholarships).
  4. 2011: $25 million (enabling the school’s campus to expand).

Cooperman was also the first individual in America to endow the program that sends Jewish Americans aged 18-26 on a visit to Israel to bolster their Jewish identity – Birthright Israel.

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.

Edmund Ansin: Miami, Boston and Beyond

Born in 1934 in Worcester, Massachusetts, during the Great Depression, Edmund Ansin was the son of Sidney and Sophie Ansin. Sidney, who was the son of a Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine, was the founder of Anwelt Shoe, a manufacturer of shoes. When young Edmund was seven years old Sidney moved the family to Florida, where he went on to invest in real estate and became well-off financially. Sidney and Sophie were founding members of Temple Beth Shalom in Miami Beach. Eventually Edmund was sent back to Massachusetts for prep-school, and went to Harvard for two years, then to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a BS in economics.

When Edmund’s father passed away in 1971 he became the president of the Sunbeam Television Corp, a holding company for Miami’s Channel 7 TV station, WSVN. The station began to affiliate with Fox Network, and used news broadcasts from the newly launched CNN satellite network. In contrast to the way most independent stations operated then, Ansin decided to focus his station on news coverage. And even the news coverage was unconventional, shying away from the stoic presentations of staid news anchors, Ansin’s news programs were fast-paced, crime-lead stories with breaking news coverage and good-looking anchors. Under Ansin’s direction WSVN news became the market leader, bringing in $96 million in revenues in 2011.

Ansin’s giving is legendary, becoming the only person to have been awarded the United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Award for outstanding philanthropy in three different cities. He gave $1 million to build a radio station at Emerson College and a technical communications building. Together with Edmund’s brother Ronald, they donated $2.6 million to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston and their Youth Service Providers Network.

Guerin Giving Generously

hospitalUS philanthropist and music theater producer Vera Guerin is no stranger to giving generously.  Over the years she has donated substantial amounts of money to various medical-based causes.  For example, in 2008 she gave $5 million for the research section of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Women’s Guild Lung Institute.  If that were not enough, just five years later, Guerin was in full force again, with her $10 million check at the hospital enabling it to open the Vera and Paul Guerin Family Congenital Heart Program.  As well, a further $10 million was given for the endowment of two academic chairs: one in pulmonary medicine and the other for pediatric neurosurgery.  The money was also used to support the hospital’s new outpatient services building.

In addition to her generous monetary assistance, Guerin is both Vice Chair and Chair-Elect of the Cedars-Sinai Board of Directors.  In the past she held a key role – President – at the Women’s Guild Lung Institute and trustee at the Harvard-Westlake School.

Advisory boards Guerin has served on include: Stephen S. Wise Temple; Skirball Culture Center.

Bringing Art to the Masses

artFor those who love the art but simply cannot afford to enjoy it as much as they would like, Evelyn Danzig Haas was someone they should have gotten to know.  Along with her husband, Walter A. Haas Jr., back in the day she helped raise the $95 million that was needed to build the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s facility which thereafter opened its doors to the public in 1995.

In addition, Haas played a key role in the San Francisco Symphony for over four decades, ultimately becoming a Life Governor there.  Under the auspices of her foundation – the Haas, Jr. Fund –  $10 million was donated which led to the creation of the Keeping Score initiative, bolstered by a PBS TV show which sought to “bring the power and joy of classical music” to millions of US homes and schools.  The foundation – that was established by Evelyn and her husband in 1953 in order to create a society whereby “all people can live, work and raise their families with dignity – “strives to be a voice of hope and a force for positive change.”

Other contributions Haas made in her lifetime included being the force behind the transformation of former military base Crissy Field into a 100-acre urban national park. She also advocated strongly for the Season of Sharing Fund, initially established by Walter in conjunction with the San Francisco Chronicle.

As well, the Evelyn Danzig Haas ’39 Visiting Artists Program and Arts in the City the (which has been active since 2003) was set up to enable artists to present lectures on campus, while working with exhibitions and students in faculty.

Indeed, throughout her life, Evelyn Danzig Haas spent decades making noteworthy contributions to the arts, quality of life and education.

Iris Apfel: The “Geriatric Starlet”

Iris Apfel at O Cinema Miami Beach to present IRIS, by Albert Maysles. Photo courtesy of Miami Film Festival

Iris Apfel was born Iris Barrel in New York City in 1921. Highly influenced by her mother, Sadye, who owned a fashion boutique, Iris became interested in fashion at a young age. After studying art history at NYU, she worked for the well-known fashion magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, as well as for an interior designer.

With her husband Carl, she opened a textile firm called Old World Weavers, running it together until 1992. For forty years, from 1950 to 1992 she engaged in several design restoration projects, including working for the First Ladies of nine different presidents, from Truman to Clinton.

Through the years Apfel built up a large and elaborate collection of clothing, jewelry and accessories of every kind, from the cheapest baubles to the most expensive jewels and fabrics. She was relatively unknown until 2005, when the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York featured an exhibit on Apfel’s personal style called: “Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel.” The exhibition was a huge success, and brought Apfel into the glare of the public spotlight.

Her next step up the fame ladder came when iconic filmmaker Albert Maysles made a documentary about her, called Iris. It premiered at the New York Film Festival in October 2014.

In 2016, the Women Together foundation honored Iris for her lifelong support and dedication of artisans all over the world. The award was present to Apfel at the United Nations, in the Delegates General Assembly hall.

Iris Apfel’s modesty and joie de vie are well-known, calling herself the “geriatric starlet” with surprise and an element of disbelief.

Diller’s Deep Donations

When it comes to charitable donations, Barry Diller is someone with very large pockets.  A successful US businessman in the media industry, this TV Hall of Fame member has given millions of dollars to worthy causes.

Some incredibly generous examples of Diller’s generosity include a $20 million gift via the Diller-von Fürstenberg Family Foundation (established with his wife Diane von Fürstenberg) in support of the completion of Manhattan’s High Line park project.  The following year he wrote a $30 million check to the Hollywood Fund which offers retired show-business workers health and social care.

In 2015 – in what was alleged to have been the largest ever donation to a public park in the history of NYC – Diller and von Fürstenberg committed a $113 million donation toward a floating public park and performance area on a Hudson River pier.  Completion of the project is anticipated in 2019.