A Lifetime of Giving
Eli and Edythe Broad, who came from humble backgrounds to become two of the world’s leading philanthropists, have devoted their lives to giving back to the country that gave them the opportunity to live the American Dream.
Growing up in Detroit and attending public schools, Eli and Edye met in 1953 and married the next year. After graduating cum laude in three years from Michigan State University, Eli became the youngest certified public accountant in the state’s history. Restless to make more money, he decided to start a homebuilding business. By eliminating basements and passing on the savings, Eli made home ownership possible for young families who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Kaufman and Broad Homebuilding Corporation was an immediate success and soon expanded across the country and in France. Eli and Edye moved their family and the company headquarters to Los Angeles to grow the business in 1963, where the Broads have lived ever since.
In 1971, Eli acquired SunLife, a small insurance company founded in 1890, for $52 million and transformed it into a new business that would answer another essential public need: offering secure retirement savings to aging Baby Boomers—the same customers who bought homes from Kaufman and Broad. SunAmerica, as Eli renamed the company, provided retirements for a generation of Americans. The company was the best-performing on the New York Stock Exchange for a decade, brought thousands of jobs to Los Angeles and created wealth for its employees, shareholders and Eli’s family when he sold the company to AIG for $18 billion in 1999.
After that, Eli and Edye decided to devote their lives, and their lifetime earnings, to philanthropy. The Broads had always been philanthropic, giving as early as the 1950s to causes close to home. They donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from its founding in 1965 and to UCLA as early as 1967. That same year, they established a family foundation.
As the Broads’ capacity to give grew, the focus of their philanthropy sharpened, as did their commitment to making sure their philanthropy created a positive return for the public good. Eli and Edye devoted their giving to improving the human mind, body and spirit by investing in improving K-12 public schools, advancing scientific and medical research and expanding public access to the arts.
These three areas of philanthropy held special meaning for the Broads—as graduates of Detroit Public Schools, as parents of a son who struggles with an incurable disease and as passionate, lifelong collectors and champions of contemporary art and architecture. As one of the first signatories of the Giving Pledge, the Broads have promised to give away 75 percent of their net worth. And their commitment goes far beyond writing checks. The Broads work to create lasting positive change through institutions like high-quality public charter schools, genomics and stem cell research centers and contemporary art museums like The Broad in downtown Los Angeles.
Over the course of their lives, the Broads have invested more than $4 billion in these causes for the simple reason that they believe in philanthropy, as in business, they have a moral obligation to work to make life better for people.
In 2016, Eli and Edye appointed Gerun Riley president of the foundation. Gerun began working for the Broad family in 2003, and since then has taken on roles of increasing responsibility, serving as chief of staff, vice president and most recently as senior vice president of the foundation. She has worked on a number of key initiatives including The Broad Prize for Urban Education, the architectural competition and opening of The Broad museum and the foundation’s organizational strategy, design and governance. She has also worked closely with major grantees including The Broad Stage, where she serves on the board, The Broad Institute, the Broad stem cell research centers at UCLA, USC and UC San Francisco, and other partners in K-12 public education.
After a year of working alongside Gerun to helm the foundation, on Oct. 12, 2017, Eli announced his retirement from the foundation. Today, Gerun oversees the foundation’s grantmaking and strives to carry forward and evolve the Broads’ vision for helping make the world a better place.