Temple to name medical school after Katz

Lewis Katz pledged $25 million to his alma mater.
Lewis Katz pledged $25 million to his alma mater.
Posted: May 16, 2014

Lewis Katz's mother always wanted him to be a doctor, but he couldn't stand the sight of blood and didn't much like dissection.

So he went to law school instead, and then made a fortune in parking, banking, billboards, and real estate.

Wednesday, his alma mater announced that Temple University's medical school will be named after the longtime member of the university's board of trustees and the largest donor in the school's history.

"I got the second-best thing for her," said Katz, 72. "She's got to be smiling today."

Temple was to make a formal announcement at a private dinner for Katz on campus Wednesday night, and he was scheduled to speak at Temple's commencement Thursday and receive an honorary degree.

Katz, a co-owner of The Inquirer, pledged $25 million to Temple in November - the biggest single gift in the university's history. That represents 8 percent of the university's endowment, which as of last June totaled $324 million.

At the time of Katz's pledge, no purpose for the money was specified. University officials said Wednesday that the funds would be used to enhance research and faculty support at the School of Medicine, soon to be called the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple.

The 11-story education and research building on the university's medical school campus in North Philadelphia opened in 2009 and cost $160 million.

While university officials declined to say how much money Katz has given his alma mater over the years, they acknowledged him to be is the largest benefactor in Temple's history.

"Any time I've gone to Lewis for an ask, he not only embraces the ask but he gets it done," said Patrick O'Connor, chairman of the trustees. "Lewis will be very proud of the fact that we have now memorialized him at a school that he loves so much."

O'Connor said that Katz also has helped the university secure state and federal funding, and has brought others onto the board who have given significant gifts.

With its 17 schools and colleges, hundreds of degree programs, and health system, Temple is one of Philadelphia's largest employers. The health system employs about 10,000 people and the university more than 7,700 full- and part-time faculty and staffers.

O'Connor said the executive committee of Temple's board unanimously approved naming the school for Katz during a conference call Wednesday morning. Katz, who has been a Temple trustee since 1998, did not participate in the call.

"I'm so honored," Katz said in an interview. "I love my school, and it's beyond my comprehension that I could be so lucky and privileged to have the university and my fellow colleagues on the board of trustees honor me in this way."

Born in Camden, Katz was raised by his mother, who worked two jobs to support the family. His father died when he was 1. He attended Temple through a scholarship.

"My story is a 'Temple Made' story," Katz said, referring to the university's most recent advertising campaign. "By getting that scholarship, someone made it possible for me to go to college."

Katz earned his bachelor's degree in biology in 1963, then graduated from the Dickinson School of Law. He served as chief executive officer of Kinney System Holding Corp. from 1990 until it was acquired in 1998 by Central Parking Corp. He is a former principal owner of the New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils, and a member of the board of governors for the Boys and Girls Club of America.

Katz declined to estimate how much he has given Temple over the years, but noted that it has been "substantial." Many donations have been "challenge" gifts in which he matches what someone else donates, said Ray Betzner, university spokesman. That happened a couple years ago with scholarship funding, he said.

"He has just never forgotten where he came from," said Temple president Neil D. Theobald.

The first installment of Katz's $25 million pledge will be paid this year, Katz said. Temple officials declined to specify over what period the gift would be paid, but O'Connor noted it would be during Katz's lifetime.

Katz's name likely will go on the school in the fall, O'Connor said, and he will be recognized at a formal presentation.

"I only wish my mom would be around to see it," Katz said.

ssnyder@phillynews.com215-854-4693 @ssnyderinq www.inquirer.com/campusinq

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