ON-Lion Letter
In 1979, Bernie Marcus and his partners opened a home-improvement store in Atlanta. The Home Depot grew from that single store to one of the most-spectacular entrepreneurial successes in recent history. Marcus led the company for more than two decades, serving as chairman until his retirement in 2002.

But Marcus was a philanthropist long before he was an entrepreneur. "We lived in a tenement," he told Philanthropy magazine, the Fall 2012 issue of which features cover article about Marcus. "We had no money. Five cents was a major issue in our lives." Occasionally, as a special treat, the nickel would be spent for ice cream. But just as often, according to Marcus, "My mother would say, 'We can't have the ice cream today, we're planting a tree in Israel instead,'" and the nickel would be sent off, if not to Israel, then to one charitable cause or another. "I grew up knowing that this is what you do. It's bred into me."

In October, the Philanthropy Roundtable awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership to Marcus. The Roundtable administers the prize at the request of the William E. Simon Foundation.

Over the years, Marcus' giving has taken many forms. He was the driving force behind the Georgia Aquarium -- the largest in the world -- which has generated roughly $6 billion for the Atlanta area. He led the creation of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan, Jerusalem-based think tank that puts some of Israel's best minds to work on the long-term challenges facing the country. With a focus on the health of children and military veterans, he has long supported medical research, making major contributions in the areas of autism and neurological, spinal, and brain injury.

Marcus' most-recent major endeavor is the Job Creators Alliance, a group of business leaders seeking to promote and preserve free enterprise for succeeding generations. "I believe in free enterprise," he says. "It's what made our success possible. And I want to ensure its strength, so that free enterprise can provide the opportunity for success to millions of other people, too."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports both the Philanthropy Roundtable and the Job Creators Alliance.
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