Syracuse University alumnus Marvin Lender ’63 and his wife Helaine (Gold) ’65 have turned their lifelong commitment to social justice and greater understanding among people into the establishment of a multidisciplinary center, managed and housed in the School of Education. The couple is providing a generous $4.8 million gift in support of the creation of the Lender Center for Social Justice, which will include research support, symposia and faculty and student fellowships. A ceremony will take place Sept. 14 on campus to commemorate the launch of the initiative.
With an enduring underlying mission to develop ethical and courageous citizens, the Lender Center for Social Justice will aspire to become nationally recognized for encouraging creative and critical engagement with social justice. It will support innovative and multidisciplinary research of contemporary social problems while providing proactive and concrete approaches and solutions. Its members and partners will develop collaborations that will broaden just and undaunted engagement between students and citizens.
This globally engaged, multidisciplinary center has long been a dream of the Lenders, who knew unequivocally they wanted to support such an endeavor at their beloved alma mater. “We knew that Syracuse University would have the desire and knowledge to make our dream a reality,” Helaine says. “This is our chance to do something special that will hopefully have an impact now and on future generations.”
Marvin recognizes the University’s history of social justice and its legacy of initiatives and research that has changed hearts and minds, and wanted to contribute in a meaningful way to its continuing legacy.
“I believe that Syracuse gives you an education both in the classroom and outside the classroom, which for me had an enormous impact on how I saw the world. I will forever be indebted and grateful to this university for the opportunity it gave me,” Marvin says.
Chancellor Kent Syverud says the new center will provide students and faculty with resources to advance scholarly efforts in solving the challenges that hinder equal rights and justice for all.
“The work of the Lender Center will be another part of the extensive legacy that Marvin and Helaine Lender have established in working for social justice and creating a forum for dialogue on global issues,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “This center will be a catalyst for greater understanding and hope. They continue to inspire others through their support of Syracuse University and their vision for the center and its work.”
Marvin Lender, a Life Trustee member of the Syracuse University Board of Trustees, and the Lender Family are known as much for their philanthropy as for their business, Lender’s Frozen Bagels. After his graduation from Syracuse, Marvin married his college sweetheart, Helaine, and joined his brothers in their bagel company, which at the time was located in a garage behind their home in New Haven, Connecticut. Along with his brother, Murray, they grew Lender’s Frozen Bagels into a household name. Recently, they were recognized by the American Society of Baking for their entrepreneurship and for “bagelizing” America and the world. After the sale of Lender’s to Kraft Foods in 1984, Marvin devoted his time to philanthropy and helping others.
Marvin has provided support and leadership to the University, chairing “The Commitment to Learning” campaign that raised $380 million—the biggest prior campaign was $100 million.
Throughout their years, both Helaine and Marvin were dedicated to the funding of nonprofits, both in their communities and globally, that worked to improve education, health care and social services. They were driven by their recognition that they were fortunate enough to live the American dream and their goal has always been to give back and make the world a better place.
In 2015, the Lenders met with several University and community leaders, faculty and staff who had been brainstorming about similar issues. A series of meetings culminated in the creation of a multidisciplinary initiative, the Lender Center, which will be administrated and managed by the School of Education, with ultimate responsibility under the auspices of the provost.
As part of the center, an advisory board was established and two inaugural faculty co-directors—Marcelle Haddix, dean’s associate professor and chair of Reading and Language Arts in the School of Education, and Kendall Phillips, professor of Communication and Rhetorical Studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts—were selected to shape the vision and create guidelines.
“I am honored to be a part of the efforts to create a center within our campus community for the deliberate and explicit naming and doing of social justice and equity-oriented work,” Haddix says.
“The Lender Center will continue the long legacy of social justice work at Syracuse University,” Phillips says. “We look forward to collaborating with the many students, faculty and staff who are already deeply engaged with this important work.”
The Lender Center for Social Justice will officially launch on Friday, Sept. 14, with a ceremonial presentation by Chancellor and President Kent Syverud and Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly at 4 p.m. in the Helaine and Marvin Lender Auditorium in the Whitman School of Management. The launch will be part of a full day of academic presentations and symposia, which will begin at 1 p.m., and conclude with a keynote presentation from Kevin Kumashiro, Ph.D., an internationally recognized expert on educational policy, school reform, teacher preparation, and educational equity and social justice. More information on the symposia is forthcoming.
As it takes shape, the Lender Center for Social Justice will host activities and programming, including multidisciplinary conversations related to issues of social justice and collaborations with other University units to promote a robust dialogue about issues of justice, equity and inclusion.
The center will also launch an innovative faculty and student fellowship program and annual symposium, supporting collaborative research and engagement related to issues of social justice. Each year a faculty member will be named a Lender Faculty Fellow and be provided the support to lead a two-year project in collaboration with five Lender Student Fellows. The Lender Fellows team will work with individuals and institutions from across campus, the community and nation to develop and propose innovative ways of engaging contemporary social issues and to promote the pursuit of social justice.
The Lender Symposium will serve as the culmination of the two-year projects with invited national guests and experts participating in a thorough discussion of the research and proposals developed by the Lender Fellows team.
The Lender Center for Social Justice is the Lenders’ lasting legacy, not only for the Syracuse University community but something that is meant to impact the world. The Lenders recognize that the issues and challenges of social justice will be ongoing. “Our intent is that future generations of our family, including Heidi, Keith, Jill, Maya, Jaden, Dylan, Sondra ’93, Ben, Ezekiel and Marsden, will continue to be involved and provide leadership and direction for this very important project,” the couple says.
For more information about the Lender Center for Social Justice, contact LenderCenter@syr.edu.