When people remember the late Jerry Zucker, they instantly comment on philanthropy. And while he wasn’t one to search for recognition – in fact, he preferred anonymity – he was certainly deserving of it. Jerry served as chairman, president, CEO and founder of The InterTech Group, Inc., as well as governor and CEO of Hudson’s Bay Company. For more than 35 years, he served in research and development, engineering, marketing and operations positions at various levels. His skills and intellect led him to create more than 350 invention disclosures that resulted in numerous patents and commercially successful processes and products worldwide. At the time of his passing in 2008, The InterTech Group had operations in North America, Latin America, South America, Europe and the Far East.
Jerry Zucker lived his life by one simple creed: tikkun olam, which means “repairing the world.”
From left to right: Jerry Zucker as a boy; Anita and Jerry were involved with Garth Brooks’s (center) charity, Teammates for Kids Foundation, and Anita continues to serve on the board; Jerry with his wife Anita.
But it was Jerry’s love of helping people that served as his driving force. “If there were people in need, they would come see him,” says Anita Zucker, Jerry’s widow. “He would work hard to help them fix their lives. He liked to teach people how to do things to make a difference, so if they could get help and get out of a situation they would know how to deal with it if it ever happened again.”
Raymond S. Greenberg, MD, PhD, president of Medical University of South Carolina, echoes this sentiment. “I spend my life surrounded by very smart people, but Jerry operated at an entirely different plane,” says Dr. Greenberg. “He could see right through a problem – dissect it to its basic elements and find the best solution. And he did it all with such incredible ease. He would come to our Research Foundation board meetings, having just stepped off a plane from some remote corner of the world, and regardless of what time zone he was on, you had his full energy and attention. He had an intensity that was almost palpable.”
In Hebrew, it’s called tikkun olam – repairing the world. “Jerry lived his life by this simple creed, whether it was quietly helping an individual in need or supporting the institutions that help shape his community,” remembers Dr. Greenberg. “Charleston was his home, and he gave generously here, but Jerry was really a citizen of the world, and he gave generously to causes around the globe.”
Judi Corsaro, CEO, Charleston Jewish Community Center and Charleston Jewish Federation, agrees. “Jerry’s philanthropy, business and personal relationships had a profound impact on the lives of many individuals in and outside of Charleston. His sense of responsibility to leave this world a better place than he found it was evident in all aspects of his life. The leadership and philanthropy he provided to the Jewish community set the standard for everyone else to emulate. Jerry looked for long-term solutions to challenges that would translate into long-lasting positive results, and the Charleston Jewish community is solid because of the seeds he planted. The Jewish community is grateful that his amazing wife, Anita, and their three children honor his memory and carry on the family legacy of tikkun olam in the important work they continue today.
“Jerry was very humble,” says Anita. “He did so much for so many people to help them change their lives, much of which was done anonymously because he didn’t do it for the praise. And he gave so much of his time to the community. Even though he didn’t have much free time, he gave of it selflessly.”
In everything Jerry did, he brimmed with optimism.
A family photo with (standing L to R) daughter Andrea, Jerry, daughter-in-law Laura, son Jonathan, wife Anita, son Jeffrey, and (seated L to R) Jerry’s mother, Zipora Zucker, and Anita’s mother, Rose Goldberg.
Jerry’s commitment to community involvement was evident in the number of organizations with which he was associated. He served as chairman emeritus of the South Carolina Aquarium; chair of the Jewish Studies Advisory Board of the College of Charleston; president of the Coastal Carolina Council for the Boy Scouts of America; South Carolina chair for the Anti-Defamation League, Southeast Region; member of the American Chemical Society; and the list goes on.
In everything he did, he brimmed with optimism. “The glass was always half full for Jerry,” says Anita. “He was a very positive person. And he got things done yesterday instead of tomorrow.” She firmly believes her husband had an impact on all of the people he touched. “From what Jerry put into his family, his children, his businesses and the people in those businesses, as well as what he invested in our community – time, energy and financial support – these were all his greatest achievements.”
While Jerry Zucker is certainly missed, his accomplishments, good deeds and positive influence on his community will never be forgotten.