Hundreds of people celebrated the life of one of the great Phiily philanthropists, as Temple University unveiled the Lewis Katz School of Medicine.
Hundreds of people reminisced and celebrated the life of one of the great philanthropists in Philadelphia history Tuesday morning, as Temple University unveiled the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. This joyous occasion at Temple honored the late businessman, Lewis Katz — a 1963 graduate of Temple, a longtime trustee and benefactor of both the university and its School of Medicine.
Prior to Katz’s untimely passing in May 2014, he gave $25 million to Temple, which is the largest single donation in Temple’s history, and the culmination of a lifetime of generosity and advocacy.
“Today would be a day that our parents would be so proud,” said Drew Katz, the son of Lewis Katz and a trustee at Temple. “Temple meant everything to him. For Lewis Katz to achieved what he did in life — the enormous success he had in law, parking, billboards, banking, real estate, television, sports, the success he had as a parent, as a grandparent — he needed to develop a strong sense of self and that inner strength, that sense of self came from his experiences at Temple University.”
Drew Katz was joined at the event by numerous people impacted by his father’s generosity and friendship, including Temple University Board of Trustees chairman Patrick O’Connor; Temple’s president, Neil Theobald; School of Medicine dean, president and CEO of Temple University Health System Larry Kaiser; Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-02); former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell; Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, three changes were made to the medical school building: Katz’s favorite quote — the John Wooden maxim, “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you” — was added to the dean’s conference room wall; North Broad Street building signage bearing the Lewis Katz School of Medicine was installed; and a portrait of Katz by Italian artist, Francesco Mernini, was dedicated and displayed in the lobby.
Katz was a former owner of Kinney Parking Systems, at the time the largest parking company in New York City, and the former chairman of Interstate Outdoor Advertising, one of the largest regional outdoor-advertising firms in the country. He was the majority owner of five radio stations in Atlantic and Cape May counties, and a founding partner of the Katz, Ettin & Levine law firm in Cherry Hill. He was also a prominent donor to the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, Congregation Beth El in Voorhees, N.J., and the National Museum of American Jewish History.
Theobald and Kaiser told the attendees that Katz made a tremendous impact at Temple and that renaming the medical school is a fitting tribute to him.
“Lewis never forgot how much Temple University had helped him,” Theobald said. “Lewis truly loved this university. He wanted to be sure that Temple University took its rightful place as one of the greatest universities in America.”
Although Katz never became a doctor, his name will now live on forever with the school, Kaiser said.
“If only his mother was here today to see an entire medical school named in his honor,” Kaiser said. “This trumps an adoring Jewish mother’s wish for a doctor in the family. Now she has thousands.”
Booker spoke passionately about Katz, whom he met about 13 years ago at a New Jersey Nets game, when Katz owned the team. That spawned a great friendship, which also led to Booker becoming close friends with his son Drew.
Both Katz and Booker’s father Cary grew up poor without fathers, and the senator told the audience he considered Katz a father figure.
One thing that always stood out to Booker was that Katz, who owned numerous companies and accumulated wealth throughout his life, never seemed to care as much about money as he did about helping people.
“As I got to know Lewis, I found his story amazing,” he said. “For him, this was about the perpetuation of that ideal of his: of service, of doing for others, of cultivating the best of who you are.”
However, Booker acknowledged Katz would not be satisfied with just having a building named after him. Katz was filled with ambition, exuberance and passion and he would ask how can so many people still be sick, when there have been numerous advances in medicine and why can’t people afford quality healthcare.
“He knew that poverty is a toxic state,” Booker said.
An emotional Drew Katz told the audience his father never forgot his roots and always treated others with the utmost respect and kindness.
“Lewis Katz was unique and as lucky as our family is to have Temple honor him this way, Temple University is luckier to have such a magical angel looking over its students, looking over its faculty and this incredible school,” Katz said.
Katz said his father was fascinated by what doctors did. While he ran businesses, he always thought doctors did much more for society. One day, he said to Drew, “I park cars, but look at that person” — pointing to a doctor — “they save lives.”
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