Carl J. Shapiro, one of Boston's most generous philanthropists and longtime benefactor of Brandeis University, has passed away at the age of 108.
Shapiro, who was an unknowing victim of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, reportedly losing $545 million, used the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation to support many worthy causes, including hospitals, the arts, culture, higher education, and local charitable endeavours in his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts and in Palm Beach, Florida where he and his late wife Ruth also lived.
Examples include Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center, The Museum of Fine Arts, The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Shapiros first gave a $10 donation to Brandeis in 1950, two years after its founding. They had no ties to the institute but wanted to support a university founded by the Jewish community so that Jewish students would have a place to study at a time when Jews were excluded from many top colleges. They went on to became the school's greatest donors, gifting more than $72 million to the institution.
“Carl Shapiro’s immense generosity has shaped this university in innumerable ways,” said Brandeis President Ronald Liebowitz in a statement on their website. “We have been honored to count him and his entire family among our closest friends. This institution would not have achieved or been able to maintain its reputation for academic excellence without the Shapiro family’s dedication."
Shapiro was born on February 15, 1913, one of three children. He briefly attended Boston University but left during the Great Depression to run his father's coat factory which he turned into Kay Windsor, a successful national cotton dress manufacturer that earned him the nickname "Cotton King." He eventually sold the company for $21 million in 1971, investing some of the proceeds with Madoff.
Shapiro was married to his wife, Ruth, for 73 years. She died in 2012. He is survived by two daughters, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.