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November 26, 2001

Blank gives $5M for institute endowment

By Michael Terrazas


Emory’s Institute for Jewish Studies has received a five-year, $5 million “challenge” grant from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, giving the fast-growing center the springboard it needs to leap to the forefront of Jewish scholarship in the United States.

The institute hopes to establish a $10 million endowment, and the Blank gift was made with the understanding that Emory would raise the additional $5 million. The gift also gives naming rights for the institute to Arthur Blank, co-founder and retired co-chairman of The Home Depot. Blank is an Emory trustee and distinguished executive in residence at Goizueta Business School.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Deborah Lipstadt, institute director and Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies. “It’s a tremendous vote of confidence in our program for Arthur Blank to make such a generous contribution to the institute and the University.”

“Arthur Blank’s generous and thoughtful contribution,” said President Bill Chace, “will give great impetus and encouragement to the University’s plans for Jewish studies and will place Emory directly in the center of one of the most important intellectual and cultural areas in academic and public life.”

Emory College Interim Dean Bobby Paul said the gift presents the institute with a unique opportunity. “Emory is already blessed with an outstanding program in Jewish studies, numbering among its relatively small but distinguished faculty some of the best known and admired scholars in the country and indeed in the world in their respective fields, from Rabbinics to Holocaust studies to the Middle East,” Paul said. “Thanks to the far-seeing generosity of Arthur Blank, Emory will now be able to take a giant step forward to become one of the premier centers for Jewish learning anywhere.”

“I am delighted that this wonderful and outstanding man has supported Emory again and in such a meaningful way,” said Bill Fox, senior vice president for Institutional Advancement. “Jewish studies has made a significant contribution to scholarship and the enrichment of community life, and Arthur believes in and supports both in his generosity and in his personal life. He is a superb human being.”

“Our family foundation is pleased to be able to support Emory University and the Institute for Jewish Studies,” Blank said. “The endowment we are helping to establish will allow this outstanding institute to further enhance staff and study programs to the benefit of all its students.”

Lipstadt said the institute’s goals for the endowment are “multifaceted” and address everything from faculty recruitment and program space to scholarship and curriculum expansion. In a written summary identifying key needs for the program, Lipstadt also mentioned the need to hire a full-time, professional executive director.

“We’re already stretched so thin—there are a lot of students who want to come and study with us,” she said. “We’ll just go from strength to strength [in using the new resources].”

David Blumenthal, Cohen Professor of Judaic Studies, said he believes Blank saw an opportunity to take a program that was already very good and turn it into something excellent. “Just look at our website (,” Blumenthal said. “There’s a lot going on here. This gift will allow us to create an island of excellence, certainly in the Southeastern United States and probably at a national level.”

A native of Flushing, N.Y., Blank graduated with distinction from Babson College. Currently, he serves on a number of boards in addition to Emory’s, including the Carter Center, the North Carolina Outward Bound School, Cox Enterprises, Post Properties and Staples. He will begin serving as chairman of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce in 2003.

Founded in 1995, the Blank Family Foundation is committed to supporting programs and organizations that create opportunity, enhance self-esteem and increase awareness about cultural and community issues among young men and women. Grants to date total more than $40 million.

Emory established the Institute for Jewish Studies in February 1999 to pull together its existing graduate program in the field and create an undergraduate component. The institute has a core of 13 faculty, three of whom hold chaired professorships, with another 13 professors serving as associate faculty.

“Emory’s long and admirable openness to the Jewish community of the South and of the nation is one of its distinctive and unique features,” Paul said. “The gift from the Blank Found-ation is a fitting capstone to this worthy tradition.”


Back to Emory Report November 26, 2001