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A Conversation with Marcia and John Goldman, MBA '75
Marcia and John Goldman are quintessential benefactors: A devotion to doing good is ingrained in their everyday lives. The couple's civic and philanthropic leadership has touched a wide range of Bay Area organizations from the San Francisco Symphony and TheatreWorks to the Wildlife Conservation Society, Planned Parenthood, and Project Open Hand. And that's just scratching the surface. Continuing a multigenerational tradition of giving, they have enhanced life in the region in countless ways.
Even in supporting one institution—Stanford—their generosity has broad impact, advancing the university's work across undergraduate education, athletics, the Graduate School of Business (GSB), the School of Medicine, and Stanford Hospital & Clinics. It's the kind of ongoing, foundational commitment on which the university depends, and is complemented by their wide-ranging volunteer service. John, the son of Richard Goldman and the late Rhoda Haas Goldman (a great-grandniece of Levi Strauss), is a member of The Stanford Challenge Steering Committee and Bay Area Regional Major Gifts Committee, the Stanford Athletic Board Executive Committee, and Stanford Associates. Marcia serves on the Stanford Hospital Campaign Executive Committee and the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection (ITI) Campaign Council. Together, they serve on The Stanford Challenge Leadership Council and are former Parents' Advisory Board members. They have two children, Aaron and Jessica, '05.
Recently, the Goldmans graciously welcomed Stanford Benefactor into their home to talk about why they give and why philanthropy matters.
John: I was weaned on the idea of giving back. Family dinner conversation often revolved around the organizations and people my parents were involved with, and we grew up with a certain expectation that this is how you live your life. To me, philanthropy is much more than just writing a check; it is also about dedicating the time and getting involved. It is pretty rewarding.
Marcia: My mother spent a lot of her time volunteering, and it is important to both of us to teach our children the same sense of responsibility to the community. It is rooted in the Jewish concept of "tzedakah." [Often interpreted to mean "charity," the literal translation of tzedakah is "justice." –Ed.]
Deciding What to Support
Marcia: Whether it is the symphony or Stanford or arts organizations, we tend to provide general support first. In addition, we like to target something our hearts are drawn to, if we can.
John: We feel a sense of responsibility to the established, larger institutions that make this area so great.
Marcia: We also try to help programs get started where we see opportunities.
John: For example, during the dot-com boom, there was a sense that nobody was struggling. Yet whole populations were being ignored right in our own backyard. So we established a family foundation to focus locally on disadvantaged youth and youth at risk.
Marcia: Also, about six years ago, we had this idea of teaching teens to be philanthropic, especially those who were coming from families where it was not the norm. So we launched a program on the Peninsula through the Jewish Community Federation and agreed to match whatever they raised.
John: The teens go through the exercise of selecting how to give it away, which is not easy. It has grown every year, and there are now five Teen Foundations in the Bay Area.
Marcia: It definitely makes us proud that it has a life of its own.
Giving to Stanford
Marcia: We have been interested in the School of Medicine's research for a long time. But after the ongoing journey of our daughter Jessica's illness, we wanted to give back to Stanford Hospital as well, which we've done. We also endowed a lupus research fellowship in honor of Dr. Elaine Lambert—if it wasn't for her, I don’t know whether we would have our daughter today. In some ways, philanthropy can be a gigantic thank-you note.
John: And as this journey continues, we hope there will be new discoveries that can benefit Jessica and others facing the same challenges.
Marcia: We have decided to help the transplant center be the best it can be, and we have been devoted to the Center for Clinical Immunology from its inception, which is now part of ITI. Helping to advance their work has been very personal and meaningful to us.
John: We're also very involved with the GSB. My time in the MBA program was better than my college years, and our closest friends all come from there. And I think the school's willingness to set a thoughtful new direction that enables students to be prepared for 20 or 30 years down the road is impressive. Athletics is another natural connection, since we began attending many sporting events on campus when I was a student. What makes Stanford truly unique is that there is excellence on both the academic and athletic fronts; no other school comes close. Athletics is an important part of developing leaders, because our athletes excel and learn to work together.
Marcia: And when Jessica was a student, we got to see Stanford through her eyes.
John: We gained a lot of respect for what the university does in all aspects by getting to know her classmates and friends. They came from every background and were really considerate, smart young people—remarkable, through and through.
Preparing a New Generation of Philanthropists
Marcia: We talked early on and often about how to pass along a sense of responsibility to our children. I remember the words of my mother-in-law very clearly: "If you keep a balance between how you choose to live your lifestyle and what you give back, both in terms of money and time, then you will mentor that to your children naturally." We have guided them annually in making choices of things they want to support, and included them on the board of our family foundation—that began fairly young.
John: I learned from watching my parents that you lead by example, not by preaching anything. It has been exciting to watch our children begin to think in their own terms philanthropically. Jessica and Aaron have both embraced the values that, as a parent, one really hopes they would. They like to be engaged in doing good work, and each is thinking about creating their own organizations to help meet the needs of others. What more can you ask for?