If you follow football, you've probably heard of the New England Patriots.
But you probably don't know that the Patriot's owner, Robert Kraft, built his $4.8 billion fortune from a business started by his father-in-law, Jacob Hiatt -- a Lithuanian judge who emigrated to the U.S. in 1935.
On December 8, Kraft gave money to rebuild a park bridge in Hiatt's adopted hometown -- Worcester, Mass. -- to honor Myra, Kraft's late wife and Hiatt's daughter.
Hiatt started a box company that formed the basis of what is now one of the country's largest privately-held packaging makers, Rand-Whitney.
And in so doing, Hiatt built a money machine some of whose output he poured into Worcester -- giving away more than $30 million, according to the Boston Globe.
And in this season of giving, Hiatt's example as Worcester's greatest philanthropist of the 20th century is still improving the lives of people nearly 15 years after his death at 95.
Before getting into the power of Hiatt's generosity, let's look at a basic question--why are we on this planet? For what it's worth, I think the answer is to use our talents to make the world a better place.
Talent is not distributed evenly throughout the population. And some people have talents that are more socially useful than others.
The talent of an entrepreneur can be harnessed to create tremendous social good. As I wrote in Value Leadership, a successful company founder creates jobs, makes customers better off, creates wealth for investors, and enriches the community.
This comes to mind in considering two people who told me how Hiatt touched their lives.
Hiatt paid most of the college tuition for one of his employee's sons. Ed Gastonguay wrote, "My dad worked for Hiatt in Leominster. In 1960 I applied to Brandeis but had little money to attend. My dad one day approached Hiatt and explained our situation. Jacob said to my dad, 'Have the boy come in to see me.' I had an interview with Hiatt and two weeks later I was accepted at Brandeis and I paid $400 a year when Brandeis was $5,000 a year."
"I told [Hiatt's late daughter] Myra [Kraft] that story at a class reunion she hosted at Gillette [Stadium] and she got so excited she called Bob [Kraft] over and I had to repeat the story." concluded Gastonguay--who graduated from Brandeis University in 1964.
Hiatt also funded a school in Worcester. But his story has untapped potential to inspire its students.
Another local resident, Brian Keyo said, "My children attend and attended the Jacob Hiatt Magnet Elementary School and I've been active in the [Parent-Teachers Organization]. There's a large portrait of Jacob Hiatt at the school, which was named for him in 1990, but the students don't learn about his life. I think the students should learn about the man who their school was named for," he concluded.
Though some believe that anonymous giving is the best kind, this letter makes me think that there may be a social advantage to charity with your name attached.
After all, people may benefit from the gift and the example of learning the benefactor's life story.
For the best recounting of that story that I've been able to find, I turn to the work of the American Antiquarian Society's late Fairman C. Cowan, who called Hiatt Worcester's most generous donor of the 20th century.
Hiatt packed an amazing amount into his 95 years.
He had already achieved a measure of greatness before he came to the U.S. As Cowan wrote, "Hiatt was a native of Lithuania where he received a bachelor's degree and a degree in jurisprudence from the University of Lithuania. He was an assistant district attorney and a circuit judge before coming to the United States in 1935, speaking Hebrew, Lithuanian, Russian, and German, but no English."
He soon met the woman who would become his wife. "Not long after his arrival in the United States, he met Frances Levine, a graduate of Boston University, who spoke Hebrew and became his translator and in 1937 his wife."
Hiatt took over Rand-Whitney out of bankruptcy in 1939 when it was located in Lowell, according to my uncle Herbert Cohan. In the 1950s, the company moved to Worcester. Cohan said, "My father was the trustee for Rand and put Jacob Hiatt in charge to run the company and Hiatt made it successful."
He learned English at [Worcester's] Clark University where he earned a master's degree in history in 1946, and was the speaker at his graduation ceremony. He served as a trustee at many colleges including Worcester's College of the Holy Cross and Brandeis, where he chaired the board.
Here are some of his more prominent community beneficiaries.
With a $7.5 million donation, he established Clark's Jacob Hiatt Center for Urban Education "to improve public schools, enhance teacher training, and implement education reforms," according to Cowan.
A $2 million donation by Hiatt established Clark's Frances L. Hiatt School of Psychology and also endowed a chair of European history.
In memory of his parents who were killed in the Holocaust, he and his wife endowed a wing of the college library at Holy Cross.
At Brandeis, he founded the Frances Hiatt Career Center to promote liberal arts studies, and the Jacob and Frances Hiatt Institute in Israel to enable U.S. college juniors to study in Israel.
In 1990, with Myra and Robert Kraft, he created a program in comparative religion by establishing a chair at Brandeis in Christian studies and a chair at Holy Cross in Judaic studies.
Two people who knew Hiatt described him as someone who cared deeply about alleviating human suffering while being very effective at getting others to do what he thought they should.
Cowan described how two of these people viewed Hiatt.
The former president of Holy Cross, the Reverend John E. Brooks, S.J., was his close friend for more than thirty years. In describing him, Father Brooks said, "He is a sensitive man who is concerned about confronting evil. When we are together, we talk about the existence of God, the suffering in the world and how people must help to alleviate that suffering."
James V. Wertsch, a former professor of psychology at Clark (now at Washington University), described his ability to get things done. As Wertsch said, "Oh, he is not a saint. There is another side to that calm, unassuming demeanor. Jack is very smart and tough. He is absolutely resolute. While others may be sidetracked by extenuating issues Jack can cut through the core and compel others with the strength of his vision."
In this season of giving, consider Hiatt's example of the power that every person has to use her talents to make the world a better place.