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Remembering the Legacy of Eli Broad

Eli Broad was a generous benefactor of Teach For America, helping the organization expand from hundreds of teachers in 13 communities, to thousands of educators located across 50 urban and rural areas  

September 30, 2021

Entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist, Eli Broad, passed away on April 30, 2021 at the age of 87. The businessman, who was dedicated to supporting the arts, academics, and scientific research, leaves a legacy of positively impacting public schools across the country.

Born June 6, 1933 in New York, Eli Broad learned the value and importance of hard work and community service from his parents, Lithuanian immigrants who settled the family in Detroit. Although undiagnosed with what is now known as the learning disability dyslexia, Eli flourished on a foundation of curiosity, perseverance, and independence, eventually graduating from Michigan State University in 1954. As an adult, Eli became the first entrepreneur to found two Fortune 500 companies in different industries, but he credited his teachers in the Detroit public school system for helping him overcome his challenges and shape his future. 

Eli Broad was a generous benefactor of Teach For America, helping the organization expand from hundreds of teachers in 13 communities, to thousands of educators located across 50 urban and rural areas.

“It’s hard to imagine Teach For America’s journey from a small non-profit to the American institution it is today without Eli’s entrepreneurial intuition and his constant partnership,” said Wendy Kopp, CEO & Co-founder, Teach For All. “We are saddened by the loss of his galvanizing spirit but will continue to realize his vision by improving public education in transformative ways.”

Broad’s unwavering support for Teach For America spanned over two decades. Between 2000 and 2019 he donated nearly $45 million dollars nationally to the organization. He seeded the initial corpus, which now stands at double after 10 years, as well as the Capitol Hill Fellowship, supporting 15 fellows in the first three years. With Eli’s ongoing commitment, the national program has expanded to a network of over 60,000 people serving over 50 regions. And, his impact has resounded throughout Detroit, New York, New Orleans, and Los Angeles where he supported Teach For America’s initiatives in these communities.

In 1999, Eli and his beloved wife, Edye, established the Broad Foundation, furthering their commitment to improving urban public education. Although Broad’s impact can be seen in towns and cities across the country, his passion for community service is evident in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, where he and Edye helped reshape the cultural and educational landscape. 

Fueled with the belief that change in the Los Angeles public school system was not happening fast enough, Eli supported initiatives critical to educational impact in the region. With his generous investment of time and resources, Teach For America Los Angeles was able to grow the size of its corps and give more support to alumni, making better educational opportunities available throughout the city. From Great Public Schools Now, an initiative that promotes improved education in high-poverty areas of the region, to the growth and development of schooling options within the Los Angeles Unified School District, expanding learning opportunities for students in Greater Los Angeles has been a steadfast focus of the Broad Foundation’s education grantmaking.  

In 2012, Eli was instrumental in launching the Philanthropic Leadership Circle, a unique community of individuals committed to advancing educational equity in urban and rural areas across the United States. Initiated by Teach For America, approximately 100 philanthropic leaders convened every 18 months in a different U.S. region to examine its challenges, strategies and successes in reforming K-12 education. These two-day immersive forums included candid dialog with local students, entrepreneurs, community partners and system leaders and helped major philanthropic and educational leaders emerge with insights on closing and removing educational opportunity gaps. 

“Teach for America has organized an important space for philanthropists who care deeply about equity and excellence in education (and) created a ‘big tent’ where diverse perspectives and experiences contribute to and push transformational thinking and action,” said a Karsh Family Foundation representative of the Philanthropic Leadership Circle.

It was Broad’s bold leadership of the group, as well as his unrelenting vision, personal engagement, and financial support, that inspired so many of the country’s most influential individuals to dedicate their time, energy, and resources to advancing educational equity in America.

What’s more, in 2015, Eli and Edye opened The Broad, the first free art museum in the city of Los Angeles. The contemporary and postwar art museum curates special exhibits with their youngest visitors in mind and offers education programming open to LAUSD teachers, as well as students from charter and private schools. The Broad’s education programming includes self-guided school visits for grades 3 through 12 and special programming like Art + Story that aims to create opportunities for school children to respond to visual art through their own creative expression. 

Approximately 70 percent of The Broad’s visitors identify as non-white, and 66 percent are 35 and under, reflecting the young and diverse population of the Los Angeles region. The museum embodies Eli’s legacy of expanding potential for the community’s youngest minds by giving them the chance to dream, thrive, and grow. It’s a place where Los Angeles’ students like Sophia can imagine possibilities. “What I like about the artwork is that whoever made it did it because it’s what they love,” she says. “ In the future, I want to work at a museum.”

It is a deep belief in the power of curiosity, equity, and learning that has rooted Eli’s lifelong commitment to realize an excellent education for all children. His ability to lead by example and inspire others to support this cause is one of Eli Broad’s greatest gifts to Teach For America—and future generations of children.