Tag Archives: Stanford

Jews of the Week: Doris and Donald Fisher

The Gap

Doris and Donald Fisher (Courtesy of californiamuseum.org)

Doris and Donald Fisher

Donald George Fisher (1928-2009) was born in San Francisco to a middle-class Jewish family. Soon after graduating with a business degree from UC Berkeley, he married Stanford graduate Doris Feigenbaum (b. 1932), one of the first women to be granted a degree in economics. In 1969, Donald had a hard time finding a good pair of jeans, and decided to open up his own clothing store where shopping would be both easy and cool. His idea was to sell jeans and music, and he wanted to call his store ‘Pants and Discs’. His wife suggested to call it ‘the Gap’ (short for “generation gap”). The couple raised $63,000 and opened their first store in San Francisco, selling Levi’s jeans and music records. An instant hit with young people, they made $2 million in their first year alone. By 1973, they had expanded their merchandise, opened up 25 stores, and went public. In the 80’s, the company bought out other brands like Banana Republic, and started a new value store, Old Navy. The Fishers are credited with inventing the “specialty retail” store concept, and Gap remains the largest specialty retailer in the US. It now has nearly 3700 stores in 90 countries, with over 150,000 employees. Donald and Doris maintained tight control of the company for four decades. In 2009, Donald sadly passed away after a battle with cancer. That same year, Doris stepped down as director of the company. She has since served as a director of Stanford University, is still the major shareholder in Gap, and has a net worth of over $3 billion. She has been ranked third in Forbes’ list of America’s Self-Made Women. More importantly, the Fishers are noted philanthropists, with their foundation donating over $20 million each year to educational organizations like Teach for America and KIPP (‘Knowledge is Power Program’), which directly benefits over 32,000 low-income children. The Fisher family are members of Congregation Emanu-El, one of California’s oldest synagogues.

Words of the Week

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
– Mark Twain

Jew of the Week: Ruth Porat

“The Most Powerful Woman on Wall Street”

Ruth Porat

Ruth Porat

Ruth Porat (b. 1957) was born in England to Jewish immigrants from Israel. Her father was a Holocaust survivor who escaped to a kibbutz and fought in Israel’s War of Independence. He later became a physicist and moved the family first to Massachusetts and then to California, while doing research at Harvard, MIT and the National Accelerator Lab in Palo Alto. Ruth Porat studied at Stanford, and has Master’s degrees from both The London School of Economics and The Wharton School. Throughout most of her career, Porat worked for Morgan Stanley, rising all the way up to the rank of CFO and Executive Vice President. Before that, she served as the Vice Chair of their Investment Banking division, and the head of their international Financial Institutions Group. During the 2008 Financial Crisis, Porat was a chief adviser to the US Treasury, and was praised for helping to save AIG from total collapse, an event that would have completely tanked the economy. Not long ago, she was nicknamed the “Most Powerful Woman on Wall Street”. At the same time, Porat has been married for over 30 years, and is a mother of three, maintaining a steady “work-family mix”, as she calls it, and encouraging her co-workers to do the same. As one of only a few women with such high positions in the financial world, she has become an important role model. She is also a breast cancer survivor. In the past, working as a co-head of Morgan Stanley’s tech investment division, she directed funds to companies like eBay, and Amazon in their early days, helping to turn them into the giant companies they are today. Due to her vast knowledge of both the financial sector and the digital world, she was recently hired by Google, and as of last week, is their new CFO.

Words of the Week

Transgressions of man towards God – Yom Kippur atones for them. Transgressions of man towards man, Yom Kippur does not atone for them, until one seeks forgiveness from one’s fellow.
– Talmud, Yoma 85b

Jew of the Week: Jack Goldman

Jacob Goldman (Photo Credit: Joyce Dopkeen, The New York Times)

Jacob Goldman (Photo Credit: Joyce Dopkeen, The New York Times)

Jacob E. Goldman (1921-2011) was born in Brooklyn to Jewish-Russian immigrants. He studied at both Yeshiva University and the University of Pennsylvania, where he got his Ph.D in physics. After brief stints working for Westinghouse and as a teacher for Carnegie Tech, he joined the Ford Motor Company’s Scientific Research Laboratory, where he helped to develop the sodium-sulfur battery for electric cars and large-scale energy storage, among many other things. Rising through the ranks, he soon became head of the department, and the first Jew to be an executive at the formerly anti-Semitic Ford Company. In the 1960s, Goldman was brought to Xerox to head its new computing division, and serve as chief scientist and technical officer. At the time, the computer industry was just getting underway, and Goldman convinced the authorities at Xerox to start a new research facility on the West Coast, near Stanford University, where they would be able to recruit young talent. For a while, the New-York based Xerox was reluctant to open up a new lab so far away, but eventually gave Goldman a chance. Teaming up with fellow physicist George Pake, the two opened up the Palo Alto Research Center, better known as PARC, in 1970. This lab would go on to completely revolutionize the digital world and the computer industry. PARC scientists, under the visionary leadership of Goldman and Pake, developed the laser printer, Ethernet, and most importantly, the first personal computer, as well as the first computer to have a graphical user interface (GUI) with an easy to use “desktop”. The concept of windows, folders, and icons that are operated by a computer mouse was also developed at PARC, as were the basics for LCD screens and optical discs. Interestingly, one of the few people who got a tour of PARC was a young Steve Jobs, who was so inspired by what he so that he went on to found Apple, drawing on most of PARC’s technologies for his own designs. Ultimately, it was Apple and Microsoft that took advantage of PARC’s advancements, as Xerox failed to support Goldman in commercializing those technologies. Nonetheless, Goldman is considered a key figure in transforming computers from massive industrial calculators to personal interactive tools used by the public.

Words of the Week

Jews have tended to prefer the power of ideas to the idea of power.
– Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks