Lewis Katz, a vibrant member of the Temple University community from his time as a student in the early 1960s to his receipt of an honorary degree just a few weeks ago, was killed Saturday night in a plane crash. Katz was a long-time member of the Temple Board of Trustees.
According to reports at Philly.com, all seven people aboard a private plane that crashed in a Massachusetts air field Saturday night were killed. Katz was among the passengers.
“This is an incalculable loss for Temple, for Philadelphia and for all those who knew and cherished their relationship with Lewis Katz,” said Temple University President Neil D. Theobald. “Lewis’ impact on this university will be felt by Temple students for decades to come.”
Theobald noted that Katz has been a tremendous supporter for Temple, often in ways that were not apparent to the public.
“Lewis has been a trusted advisor to Temple presidents and members of its board of trustees for years,” said the president. “On behalf of everyone at Temple, I want to extend our deepest sympathies to Lewis’ family and loved ones, many of whom were with us during the last few weeks.”
Katz has served as a Temple trustee since 1998. He is known for his long-time support of student scholarships, athletics, entrepreneurship and medicine.
“The death of Lewis Katz is truly a tragedy for this university and this city,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick J. O’Connor. “Temple has lost a great supporter, and I have lost a valued friend.”
O’Connor recalled hearing Katz speak at Temple’s commencement just a few weeks ago. “Lewis' speech at that commencement ceremony was among the most inspiring ever given. His humor, along with stories of his path to success in business and in life, moved our graduates to their feet. It was one of the proudest days of his life,” said O’Connor.
Katz, a classmate of Dr. William F. Cosby Jr., earned a bachelor’s from the College of Science and Technology in 1963. He was granted an honorary doctorate degree May 15 for a lifetime of support for Temple University.
In his acceptance speech, he told the Temple graduates about his life story: growing up without a father, working to put himself through college, taking chances in his first investments, and what he learned after a career in business, sports and journalism.
Standing in front of the graduates, he told them his business success was not the most important part of his life. Instead, it was his family and friends whom he cherished.
“Life in my view is meant to be enjoyed,” Katz said speaking to Temple’s graduates. “It’s meant to have as much fun as you can conjure up,” he said.
Hours before being granted the degree, Katz announced plans to donate $25 million to Temple University to support the School of Medicine. In recognition of Katz's commitment and his lifetime of efforts on behalf of the university, Temple's Board of Trustees will name the university's School of Medicine after Katz.
"Lewis Katz represents two cherished Temple traditions: the local student who goes on to achieve great things through hard work and creativity; and the alumnus who gives back to the university, recognizing Temple's transformative power," said President Theobald at the time of the announcement.
“As part of Lewis Katz’s visionary leadership and support of Temple’s educational mission, he was a devoted and strong supporter of our medical school mission, and someone whom I came to know well and was honored to call my friend,” said Larry R. Kaiser, dean of Temple’s School of Medicine and president and CEO of Temple University Health System. “On behalf of the Medical School and healthcare enterprise, we extend our sincerest condolences to his family and many friends.”
After earning a BS in biology from Temple, Katz graduated first in his class from the Dickinson School of Law.
Katz’s career spans the fields of law, investment banking and business. After serving as partner in the law firm of Katz, Ettin and Levine, he led a variety of enterprises including Kinney Parking Systems, the New Jersey Nets, the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Media Network and Interstate Outdoor Advertising.
Katz also is director of the Katz Foundation—which supports charitable, educational and medical causes—including an annual prize and endowed visiting professorship in cardiovascular research at Columbia University Medical School, where he also served on the Board of Visitors.
Katz also has served on the boards of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the National Basketball Association.
Just last week, Katz and fellow Trustee Harold H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest bought out their partners with an $88 million bid for ownership of the company which operates the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and the news website Philly.com.