Making His Mark

YU Benefactor Abe Naymark Leaves Lasting Legacy at Sy Syms School of Business

Abraham “Abe” Naymark was a self-made multimillionaire, but one would never know it. Low key and unpretentious until his passing last January, Naymark was also a shrewd businessman and a tough negotiator—traits that helped him achieve a small fortune in his lifetime. With this fortune, he has helped numerous students and faculty members at Sy Syms School of Business through the establishment of an eponymous scholarship fund and the Visiting Faculty and Research Fellowship Program. He gave a total of $2.25 million to YU while he was living as well as through gifts given from his estate posthumously.

Abraham Naymark
Abraham Naymark z”l

“Abe was the type of guy who wouldn’t spend $100 on himself but would gladly give a $1 million check to charity,” said Michael Strauss, associate dean of Sy Syms, who shared a close personal relationship with him. “He was a mentor to me, like a father figure, and a real mentsch with a truly unique personality.”

Naymark was born in Germany in 1924. In 1938, he emigrated with his family to Israel, where he worked as a waiter and eventually became a dietician. Although he had no formal education past third grade, Naymark served as the owner of Parsons Properties and accumulated his wealth when he was in his 60s and 70s through the purchase and sale of several buildings.

“He lived modestly his whole life, and once he sold those buildings, he decided to get involved with philanthropy, playing the market on his own and making back all the money he donated,” said Strauss.

In 2007, Naymark was suffering from throat cancer and had his larynx removed. As an expression of his gratitude to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System for saving his life, he gave a large donation to fund the Abraham and Ruth Naymark Pavilion there. That contribution marked the beginning of his many philanthropic endeavors.

Later that same year, Naymark established a charitable remainder trust with a $250,000 contribution that provided him with a predictable income stream during his lifetime and funded a Naymark Scholarship at Sy Syms upon his passing. He subsequently donated an additional $750,000, a pledge made during his lifetime and  partially fulfilled by his estate.

“He didn’t have any children and always wanted to have a son, so he donated the money for students with good academic standing who wouldn’t have been able to attend due to financial reasons,” said Strauss, who was instrumental in securing the initial donation and planting the seeds for the future gifts that Naymark later gave to YU.

Naymark was awarded an honorary doctorate from President Richard M. Joel at YU’s commencement ceremony in 2013. He also donated six Marc Chagall window paintings from Israel, which now hang on the third floor of 215 Lexington Avenue on the Israel Henry Beren Campus.

When Naymark passed away last winter, his estate—of which Strauss is a trustee—granted a $1.25 million bequest to YU, a testamentary gift that was received in June and established the Abraham Naymark Visiting Faculty and Research Fellowship Program at Sy Syms.

“Gifts given like this through a trust or estate can allow people to make a big impact during their lifetime or after,” explained Alan Secter, associate dean for institutional advancement. “Planned gift strategies can help provide for donors’ needs during their lifetimes and enable them to leave incredible legacies to organizations they care deeply about. By funding these scholarships and programs in his name, Mr. Naymark’s gifts will live on after him.”

This latest gift will enable Sy Syms to bring in visiting professors, including several from Israel, to share their unique knowledge and practical business experience with students.

“Students can now learn from professors with different backgrounds and perspectives, which helps to build up the diversity of thought and allows them to be exposed to new people and ideas,” said Dr. Andrew Geller, visiting clinical professor of management and director of the Executive MBA program, who is the first professor to teach at the school as a result of Naymark’s gift.

Geller previously taught at Columbia University and has extensive experience working as a consultant in the human resources field. At YU, he has been teaching management classes and helping to refresh additional courses and electives on leadership and organizational behavior. He is also working on expanding the EMBA program and its offerings.

“As someone who comes from the outside world, I can show how research is applied in other corporations and I’ve been sharing those experiences with my students,” said Geller. “It’s helpful for the University to be able to have this funding, not only for the teaching value but also to help grow and develop programs at the graduate level.”

In addition to his contributions to YU, Naymark also gave generously to other Jewish organizations, including the Young Israel of Holliswood/Holliswood Jewish Center in Queens, New York, where he funded the Abe and Ruth Naymark Building, and Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Boys Town in Jerusalem, Israel.

Learn more about planned giving at Yeshiva University.