American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has announced a gift of approximately $400 million from the estate of Howard and Lottie Marcus of San Diego.
Believed to be the largest bequest ever to an Israeli university and possibly the largest gift ever to benefit an institution in Israel, the bequest will more than double the size of the university's endowment. The Marcuses began supporting BGU's research efforts in the late 1990s, funding a laboratory and scholarships in the fields of water, desalination, and desert studies. In 2005, the Marcus Family Campus in Beer Sheva was named for the couple in recognition of their support. In the belief that solutions to water scarcity are the key to achieving peace in the Middle East, the Marcuses decided to leave the majority of their fortune to the university.
The Marcuses fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and immigrated to the United States, where they met; both lost most of their family members in the Holocaust. The couple made their fortune as early investors in what later became Berkshire Hathaway after Lottie's friend and legendary investor Benjamin Graham — whom she met while heading the secretarial pool at a major Wall Street firm — introduced the couple in the early 1960s to Warren Buffett, a student of his at Columbia Business School. Howard Marcus died in 2014 at age 104, and Lottie Marcus died in 2015 at the age of 99.
"I met Howard and Lottie more than fifty years ago — through a mutual friend, my lifetime hero Ben Graham," said Buffett. "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."
"Lottie and Howard are deeply missed," said BGU president Rivka Carmi, "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."