The ties between Tufts and the Tisches
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 1, 2013 16:09
While exploring the Hill for these first few weeks on campus, new students will notice that the name Tisch is thrown around quite a bit. There’s the Tisch Library, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service and even the new Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center. Students take advantage of these establishments so frequently that it begs the question: Why are so many buildings named after members of the Tisch family?
The Tisch family’s connection to Tufts began when brothers Steve (A ’71) and Jonathan Tisch (A ’76) attended Tufts as undergraduate students and later decided to give back to their alma mater in the form of an athletic center and a college for leadership. However, Steve and Jonathan were not the first in their family to be philanthropists. Starting with Laurence and Robert Preston “Bob” Tisch, the brothers’ uncle and father, respectively — the Tisches initially focused on investments unrelated to higher education.
Laurence used a seed fund to begin investing, and Bob joined him to invest in hotels, eventually gaining control of the Loews cinema company and investing in tobacco, insurance and offshore drilling. As a result, the Tisches are well known for their contributions to the Tisch Hospital at New York University (NYU) and the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.
Before contributing funds to open a new athletic center at Tufts, Bob’s son Steve established a career in the film industry after first being exposed to the discipline at Tufts.
“I think the first film course I took was probably in 1970, and it wasn’t formally part of the Tufts curriculum,” Steve told the Daily in a 2012 interview. “It was more of an experimental film course.”
Steve began working with Columbia Pictures after graduating from Tufts, most notably producing the film “Risky Business” (1983), which gave actor Tom Cruise his first starring role. Since then, Steve has worked on a number of successful films, including “Forrest Gump,” (1994) “American History X” (1998) and “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006).
“I was able to sort of stitch together, with a lot of encouragement and help from Sol Gittleman, an area of interest that was almost personally designed,” Steve said. “It included film, literature, working very closely with Dr. Gittleman and all of the courses he was teaching.”
In addition to his experience in the film industry, Steve serves as the chairman and executive vice president of the New York Giants football team, which is co-owned within the Tisch family. This involvement in professional sports prompted Steve’s donation to Tufts for the athletics center.
“When I found myself, after my father passed away, getting much more involved with the New York Giants and becoming the team’s chairman, it seemed like it was finally an opportunity to connect the dots between my involvement in professional sports and my alma mater,” Steve told the Daily on the day the fitness center opened. “I did some due diligence, and there seemed to be a real need ... that it should be in the area of sports, specifically with a new facility.”
Steve contributed $13 million to construct the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center, putting up a $3 million matching challenge to inspire other donors. Although varsity athletes continue to use the Cousens Gym and the Ames Human Performance Center, which features the Lunder Fitness Center, non-varsity students have had the opportunity to use the equipment, indoor track and pool in the newer fitness center since last September.
Steve’s younger brother Jonathan followed in the family’s footsteps and became a businessman as well. He is chairman of Loews Hotels and co-chairman of its parent company Loews Corporation, one of the largest diversified financial holdings companies in the United States. He is also co-owner and treasurer of the New York Giants and a trustee at Tufts.
After authoring three best-selling books detailing his active citizenship philosophy, he decided to give back to Tufts with a contribution of $40 million in 2006, funding the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
This college, previously known as the University College of Citizenship and Public Service, encourages students to put their education to good use by serving the community.
“I remember sitting there, thinking that this is a remarkable concept and an important idea that Tufts should embrace,” Jonathan told the Daily in a 2006 interview. Philanthropy is second nature to the Tisch family, he noted at the ceremony commemorating his donation.
Tisch College has since offered the Tisch Scholars Program, which takes a select number of students and helps them develop leadership and community service skills.
The Tisch family also made possible the 1996 opening of Tisch Library on the Medford/Somerville campus. Students use the library so frequently that it is known, simply, as Tisch. Students have Bob and Joan Tisch — Steve and Jonathan’s parents — to thank for the donation that spurred the construction of Tisch.