Neubauer family gift adds to legacy of innovative philanthropy

For Joseph Neubauer and Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer, the $26.5 million gift in support of the Neubauer Family Collegium for Culture and Society is the latest in a series of efforts to spark creative and collaborative approaches to the highest pursuit of knowledge.

That all starts with investing in people, says Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65 and a trustee of the University.

“The Collegium is an investment in human capital and an investment in what makes this University distinctive,” he says. “It’s really designed to create a natural platform for the University’s scholars to cross disciplinary boundaries to consider the complicated multidimensional problems of everyday life.”

The Collegium is one of the family’s many programs that support UChicago faculty and their groundbreaking research. 

In 1994, the family established the Neubauer Family Chair in Entrepreneurship and Finance, the first at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The Neubauer Family Foundation provided $10 million to support graduate students in the Division of the Humanities as well as in Chicago Booth in 2002.

“The humanities program at the University is one of the great treasures of American education. It is the heart of a liberal education,” Joseph Neubauer said at that time.

The Neubauer Family Assistant Professor Fellows program, which was established in 2007, provides five years of research funding and guaranteed leave time for 20 outstanding early-career, tenure-track assistant professors.

The Neubauer Collegium brings Joseph Neubauer and Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer’s total support for the University to more than $65 million.

“The Neubauer family’s vision and philanthropy has had a profound impact on this institution. Their generosity in recent years has allowed us to attract and retain outstanding young scholars across a broad array of disciplines, which is critical to the future of the University,” says President Robert J. Zimmer. “Their new commitment is essential in enabling us to launch the Neubauer Collegium and through it push the frontiers of inquiry in the humanities and humanistic social sciences and how these areas relate to other disciplines.”

Neubauer, a native of Israel, came to the United States alone at age 14 and worked his way through Tufts University by waiting tables. His ties to the University of Chicago date back to his days in the business school, where he received his MBA in 1965.

He went on to hold senior positions at PepsiCo and Chase Manhattan Bank before becoming the CEO and Chairman of Aramark, where he continues to serve as Chairman today. He has served on the University’s Board of Trustees since 1992. His son, Lawrence, received an MBA and JD from UChicago in 1995.

Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer founded the marketing and communications firm J.P. Lerman & Co. and is a former Vice President of Communications for Time Warner. She is a trustee of Brandeis University, where she received her degree in 1969, and she also sits on the boards of the Jewish Museum of New York and the Metropolitan Opera of New York.

David Nirenberg, the Collegium’s founding director, says the Collegium would build on the Neubauers’ previous generosity to the University. “The Collegium, like all the Neubauers’ endeavors here, is precisely focused on giving us the tools to be as intellectually ambitious as we can be,” says Nirenberg, the Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought.

Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer hopes scholars will use the Collegium’s tools to the fullest. “We will seek the most insightful thinkers in the world to come to Chicago, to participate with colleagues in novel ways to enrich their ideas.”

For Joseph Neubauer, the Collegium represents the future of humanistic research. “It’s got to be global, and it’s got to be collaborative. It’s the responsibility of institutions like the University of Chicago to be at the forefront of the effort to globalize all knowledge,” he says.

“Who knows what else could come of this?” he adds. ‘That’s the fun part.”