Carl J. Shapiro, H’03, philanthropist, dies at 108

Brandeis’ most generous donors, he and wife Ruth left an indelible mark

The Shapiros

Ruth and Carl Shapiro

At 108, Carl J. Shapiro, H’03, who passed away on March 7, was Brandeis’ most generous benefactor, a giant in the history of the university he had supported since its earliest days.
Mr. Shapiro and his late wife, Ruth, made their first gift to Brandeis – $10 – in 1950, just two years after the university’s founding. They, along with their family, went on to become the university's largest donors, giving more than $72 million over the years.
Today one cannot walk the Brandeis campus in Waltham, Massachusetts, without encountering the Shapiro name — most prominently, on the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Campus Center, on the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Admissions Center and on the Carl J. Shapiro Science Center.
“Carl Shapiro’s immense generosity has shaped this university in innumerable ways,” said Brandeis President Ronald Liebowitz. “We have been honored to count him and his entire family among our closest friends. This institution would not have achieved or been able to maintain its reputation for academic excellence without the Shapiro family’s dedication.
“The Shapiro Science Center is the heart of scientific research on campus, just as the Shapiro Campus Center is at the center of student life,” Liebowitz said. “The Shapiro Admissions Center is the gateway for the next generation of Brandeis students. We remain grateful for and inspired by the Shapiros’ mark on the university.”
The Shapiros’ philanthropy has had an enduring impact on hospitals, higher education, museums and the performing arts in Boston, Palm Beach, and beyond. 
Through the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, established in 1961, the Shapiros have given generously to Beth Israel-Deaconess Medical Center; Brigham & Women’s Hospital; the Museum of Fine Arts; Mrs. Shapiro’s alma mater, Wellesley College; the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, among a multitude of other beneficiaries.
Mr. Shapiro founded Kay Windsor Inc. in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and built it into one of the largest women’s apparel companies in the country. He retired in 1976. He and Ruth (Gordon) Shapiro had been married for 73 years when she passed away in 2012.
Neither attended Brandeis but wished to support the university founded by the American Jewish community in 1948 at a time when exclusionary practices prevented equal access to some of the nation’s best colleges.
“The university's mission and founding values resonated so convincingly with Mr. Shapiro that he was compelled to champion the institution for decades,” said Zamira Korff, senior vice president of institutional advancement at Brandeis. “He selflessly answered the call to strengthen the university at its most critical times, demonstrating prescience, passion, and extraordinary generosity.  His counsel was invaluable to Brandeis presidents and shaped Board conversations.  His service to and love for this institution was unparalleled and his legacy will endure for generations.”
Mr. Shapiro served on the Brandeis University Board of Trustees from 1979 to 1988. A trustee emeritus since then, he served as honorary chair of the Campaign for Brandeis.
“Carl Shapiro’s years of service with the Board of Trustees shaped the university as it is today,” said Meyer G. Koplow ’72, P’02, P’05, chair of the Brandeis University Board of Trustees. “All of us recognize the immense generosity with which the Shapiros have supported the university throughout the years.”
At Brandeis, in addition to supporting the construction of buildings central to the campus community, the Shapiro’s foundation also established the Carl Shapiro Chair in International Finance, the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Center for Library Technology and Journals and the Zinner Forum at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management.
In 2003 Mr. Shapiro received the highest Brandeis honor, an honorary degree, in recognition of an “unshakeable commitment to making the world a better place.”
The Shapiros’ three daughters — Ellen Jaffe, Linda Waintrup and the late Rhonda Zinner — were inspired to continue a tradition of service to Brandeis and have been active members of the community.
The eldest, Mrs. Zinner, who passed away in 2014, succeeded her father as a Brandeis trustee and served as vice-chair of the Heller School’s Board of Overseers. The Rhonda S. and Michael J. Zinner Forum at the Heller School was endowed by Mr. Shapiro and serves as a centerpiece of the Heller community. Linda Waintrup served on the Board of Advisors of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis.
In honor of Mr. Shapiro’s legacy, Brandeis has established the Carl J. Shapiro Memorial Fund which may be found at

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