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Richard N. Goldman
April 16, 1920 - November 29, 2010

November 29, 2010 - Richard N. Goldman, philanthropist and co-founder of the world-renowned Goldman Environmental Prize, passed away peacefully early this morning at his San Francisco home at age 90. Throughout his life, Mr. Goldman remained dedicated to supporting the San Francisco Bay Area, environmental causes, the Jewish community, Israel and reproductive rights. 

The son of prominent San Francisco lawyer Richard Samuel Goldman and Alice Wertheim Goldman of Great Falls, Montana, Richard N. Goldman was born and raised in San Francisco, where he attended public schools and the University of California at Berkeley. He spent a year at Boalt Hall School of Law before serving in the United States Army from 1942 to 1946.  In 1949, he founded and was chairman of Goldman Insurance Services, which was acquired by Willis Group Holdings in 2001.

In 1951, Mr. Goldman and his late wife, Rhoda Haas Goldman, a great-grandniece of Levi Strauss, established the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund in San Francisco to formalize their philanthropic endeavors. At its height, the endowment of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund exceeded $550 million. To date, the Fund has distributed more than $680 million dollars to nonprofit organizations and causes around the world.

In 1989, Richard and Rhoda Goldman established the Goldman Environmental Prize, which annually awards $150,000 to six grassroots environmental heroes, one from each of the world's inhabited regions. Thought of by many as the “green Nobel,” the Prize has been called the most prestigious environmental award by many including The New York Times. Since its inception, the Prize has awarded $13.2 million to 139 recipients from 79 countries.

Both the Fund and the Prize are headquartered in the historic Presidio of San Francisco, a former military base that is now part of the National Parks system.  Mr. Goldman was stationed in the Presidio for a time during his World War II military service.

Mr. Goldman long advocated for foundations to give more than the mandated five percent of their assets, believing strongly in spending down large endowments in order to better address the pressing issues of the day.  He was an early supporter of conservation and environmental causes, with grants awarded as early as the 1960s. The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund remains one of the most prominent global supporters of environmental organizations.

He was also a generous supporter of environmental projects in Israel, as well as one of the few donors to strongly promote the expansion of Reform Judaism and the strengthening of democracy and civil society for all Israelis, Jewish and non-Jewish. In 2002, Mr. Goldman helped to establish Jerusalem’s Goldman Promenade, a park built on the Government Hill Ridge overlooking the ancient city and Jordan. Today, the Promenade is a popular attraction in Jerusalem, drawing thousands of visitors of all faiths annually.

Mr. Goldman was one of the most prominent donors in San Francisco’s Jewish community and was a lifelong member of Congregation Emanu-El. He contributed more than $31.5 million to the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and more than $134 million to Jewish organizations in the United States. 

This past year, Mr. Goldman awarded $20 million in legacy grants to four San Francisco Bay Area organizations that reflect his and his late wife Rhoda’s passions. Five million dollars each was awarded to Congregation Emanu-El, Stern Grove Festival Association, University of California at Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy for Lands End.

He served as President of the Jewish Community Federation and on the boards of the San Francisco Ballet, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the World Affairs Council of Northern California, and the Commonwealth Club of California, among many others. He was also one of the largest donors to the University of California at Berkeley, his alma mater.

Mr. Goldman received numerous civic honors and awards, including the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center, the Chairman Award from the National Geographic Society, the UCSF Medal, the Teddy Kollek Award from the Jerusalem Foundation, the Heinz Award, and 2010 University of California at Berkeley Alumnus of the Year.

Mr. Goldman served the city of San Francisco as a member of both the Public Utilities Commission and the Port Commission and held the post of Chief of Protocol under Mayor Frank Jordan.

He and his wife, who died in 1996, raised four children in San Francisco. He is survived by three of his children, John D. Goldman and his wife, Marcia, of Atherton, CA; Douglas E. Goldman and his wife, Lisa, of San Francisco, CA; and Susan R. Gelman and her husband, Michael, of Chevy Chase, MD. He is also survived by his daughter-in-law Susan Goldman, widow of his son Richard W. Goldman, who predeceased his parents. In addition, Mr. Goldman is survived by his 11 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and his sister Marianne Goldman of San Francisco, CA.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, December 3, 2010 at 10:30a.m. at Congregation Emanu-El, 2 Lake Street (at Arguello) in San Francisco.

The family encourages memorial donations be made to Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy; Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; University of California at Berkeley Department of Intercollegiate Athletics; or a charitable organization of the donor's choosing.

Photo credits: Stern Grove Festival: Scott Wall | Baykeeper: Courtesy of the organization