Public Release: 

First $15 million in grants given to Ben-Gurion University from Marcus Endowment Fund

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

NEW YORK...May 16 - American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) Chief Executive Officer Doug Seserman announced that the first round of grants from the Ben-Gurion University Marcus Endowment Fund has been allocated, totaling $15 million for a range of research, academic positions, buildings, and campus expansion to help develop the Negev. The grants are determined by the Marcus Endowment Advisory Committee and the BGU Grants Committee.

The Marcus legacy gift, in excess of $400 million, was donated in 2016 to AABGU by Howard and Lottie Marcus to establish the significant endowment, of which a small percentage is distributed annually. The donation is the largest gift given to any Israeli university, and is believed to be the largest gift to any Israeli institution.

"Both AABGU and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) owe a debt of gratitude to Howard and Lottie's daughter, Ellen Marcus, who advised her parents to give the bulk of their estate to BGU," says Seserman. "She is an extraordinary individual who derives satisfaction more from giving than receiving."

The vast majority of this year's disbursements, approximately $9 million, is being appropriated for completion of the new BGU North Campus infrastructure. The remainder of funds is being allocated for various University initiatives, including water and other research and development areas, faculty recruitment and retention, and Centers of Excellence.

"My parents were passionate about Ben-Gurion University and the role it plays in the future of the Negev and the State of Israel," says Ellen Marcus. "These annual grants help support a wide range of initiatives and especially their interest in water research." Marcus, who lives in Austin, Texas, has served as a vice chair of BGU's board of governors since 2006, is an AABGU board vice president and is Austin chair of AABGU's Greater Texas Region.

Howard and Lottie Marcus both fled Nazi Germany in the early 1930s and met in New York in 1942. He built a dental practice in Manhattan. Lottie worked at a Wall Street firm as head of the secretarial pool. Through the Wall Street Ski Club, she became friends with Benjamin Graham, known as the "father of value investing."

In the early 1960s, Graham introduced the couple to his star graduate student in his class at Columbia University Business School, predicting that the young man's new business would be very successful. That student was Warren Buffet, and the Marcuses were among Buffet's first investors.

Buffet says, "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."

The Marcuses began supporting BGU in the late 1990s, funding a laboratory and scholarships in the fields of water, desalination and desert studies -- research they hoped would support future peace in the region. The BGU Marcus Family Campus in Beer-Sheva is named in their honor in appreciation of the family's magnanimous generosity.


About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) looks ahead to turning 50 in 2020, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond. Visit to learn more.

AABGU, which is headquartered in Manhattan, has nine regional offices throughout the United States. For more information, visit

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