The son of Lithuanian immigrants who settled in Detroit, Eli Broad worked as a delivery driver and door to door salesman to fund his tuition at Michigan State University.
And Broad, who died in April 2021 aged 87, maximised the opportunities it gave him, leaving behind a fortune of almost $6.9bn.
But it was his support of good causes which became his enduring legacy, after he donated $2.8bn during his lifetime to causes linked to education, arts and science through the foundation he set up with his wife Edythe.
Paying tribute to Broad, Gerun Riley the president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation said: “As a businessman Eli saw around corners, as a philanthropist he saw the problems in the world and tried to fix them, as a citizen he saw the possibility in our shared community, and as a husband, father and friend he saw the potential in each of us,”
A talented entrepreneur, Broad co-founded building firm Kaufman and Broad in 1957, which went on to become one of America’s largest house building firms. He then bought Sun Life Insurance, transforming it into financial services firm SunAmerica, which he sold for $18bn in stock in 1999.
The Broad foundation was set up in 1984 so Eli and his wife Edythe could make sure causes they supported could progress and thrive.
The couple joined the Giving Pledge – an organisation set up to help the ultra wealthy give away their money – in 2010. On signing they stated: “Those who have been blessed with extraordinary wealth have an opportunity, some would say a responsibility—we consider it a privilege—to give back to their communities, be they local, national or global.
“Though neither of us was raised in an affluent family, our parents taught both of us the importance of giving back and helping others less fortunate.”
As part of their commitment to philanthropy the Broads founded the Broad Art Foundation, an art lending library which has supported 500 museums to exhibit 8,500 artworks, and in 2020 they donated $136m to various causes, including Covid 19 testing for students and voter education initiatives.
In 2020 they also supported hundreds of school pupils in Los Angeles to learn more about science, technology, engineering and maths by offering virtual lessons with experts from a range of museums, zoos, gardens and universities across the city.
Commenting on the project Gerun Riley, the foundation’s president, said: “The Broad Foundation is proud to support the expansion of STEM education in L.A. so our youth can further develop skills and gain experiences that will help prepare them to beneficially participate in a new and rapidly shifting economy.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License