Giving Back: Jerry Zucker, Lifetime Achievement
Celebrating the life and legacy of the billionaire businessman and dedicated philanthropist
We all knew the face, the name. Anyone with a remote connection to Charleston could recognize Jerry Zucker’s shock of black hair, his Cheshire cat smile. We’d see him on the society pages and read the name time and again in captions listing attendees at board meetings and fundraisers. Zucker—with its zesty, hard-driving consonants—had become a household name, synonymous with business and philanthropy. And though we may have read the headline that he’d made the Forbes big-hitter list, there was plenty we didn’t know.
We didn’t know he delivered goodie baskets to Hotline volunteers pulling the holiday shift. We didn’t know he’d pick up the phone and call an agency director when someone needed help but had no idea where to turn—or that he followed up to make sure the needs were met. We didn’t know that he listened, really listened, to teachers’ concerns and students’ dreams when he rolled up his sleeves as Principal for a Day. We weren’t aware that while he was masterminding multimillion-dollar business deals, he was also spending endless hours ensuring the local Boy Scouts had a top-notch program.
Sure, it was easy to surmise that Jerry Zucker was a savvy and generous businessman, but most of us didn’t know that for every charitable check Zucker wrote, he invested innumerable behind-the-scenes, hands-on volunteer hours. “When Jerry was involved, it was always more about the time and effort given, not the money,” his wife, Anita, says. “There was a true amount of work and thought that went into his commitments. Sometimes board members didn’t even know.”
When Jerry Zucker died of brain cancer last spring, Charleston lost a humble leader, a blazing intellect, an unquenchable heart. As the son of immigrant Holocaust survivors, he inherited a mandate to work hard and give back. Zucker’s personal mission was Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for “repairing the world.” Notice the “ing.” This is a work in progress.
Through the Zucker Family Foundation, through his countless gifts of wisdom, ingenuity, dollars, and time, Jerry Zucker continues to repair the world. Despite the honor of this award, he taught us that it’s not about “Lifetime Achievement,” but lifelong commitment. How fitting that a new North Charleston middle school now bears his name and the Coastal Community Foundation has awarded him the Malcolm Haven Award for Selfless Giving. These lessons—of caring and giving, of learning and doing—go on.
A Legacy of Giving
• Twenty-five funds and endowments at the Coastal Community Foundation, including the largest gift ever to Trident United Way, help numerous organizations, such as Crisis Ministries, Carolina Youth Development Center, Hospice of Charleston, My Sister’s House, and the Charleston Jewish Federation. Through these grants alone, more than $1 million has been given to Tricounty nonprofits.