Building Up Israel’s Youngest University

  • Overseas
  • 2016

Howard Marcus was a dentist who left his native Germany when Hitler came to power. He and his wife Lottie lost to the Nazis most of their family members who remained behind. While Mrs. Marcus was working as a secretary on Wall Street, she became friends with a very young investor named Warren Buffett. They put much of their savings in his hands, never sold a share, lived thriftily their whole life, and ended up with hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2005 they shared their blessings by donating $200 million to Israel’s youngest and fastest-growing university, Ben-Gurion.

Howard lived to 104, and Lottie died a year later at 99. In 2016 their estate announced a posthumous gift to Ben-Gurion University of an additional $400 million—believed to be the largest single philanthropic grant to any Israeli institution. Ten percent of the gift will be directed to one of the university’s specialties and a special interest of the Marcuses: research on water use in desert areas. The rest will more than double the college endowment.