Emory students with Bernie Marcus at the Emory Hillel groundbreaking ceremony. Photo Compliments of www.ericbernstudio.com
Emory University Hillel entered a new era last Sunday when the organization broke ground on the Marcus Hillel Center, named in honor of Bernie Marcus, Atlanta philanthropist and co-founder of The Home Depot.
The Marcus Hillel Center will provide Emory Hillel with its first independent facility and will enable the group to better serve the school’s thriving Jewish student community.
"Thanks to Bernie's vision and philanthropic investment, Emory Hillel is building a world-class facility to serve as a vibrant hub of Jewish life on campus for Emory Hillel," said Mike Wien, president of Hillels of Georgia Board of Directors. "This will enhance our ability to engage more Jewish students, keep them connected, and create new leaders for our communities."
Located adjacent to Emory's campus, the approximately 17,000 square foot Marcus Hillel Center will serve as a center for Jewish life at Emory and headquarters for Hillels of Georgia. It will include a lounge and café, conference facilities, student meeting and work spaces, event space, a chapel and patio areas for social gatherings. The facility is expected open in the fall of 2009 and will also be available to the entire Emory and Atlanta community.
“It will be a home-away-from home for Jewish students and a place where everyone is welcome to explore Jewish arts, culture, spirituality and community," said Michael Rabkin, director of Emory Hillel.
The Billi and Bernie Marcus Foundation provided a lead gift of $3 million as a challenge grant to build the center. The total campaign goal of $9.2 million includes a $2 million endowment to finance the operation of the facility.
Next week, Marcus will serve as Emory's commencement speaker and will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Marcus's civic involvement includes the creation of The Marcus Foundation where he serves as chairman of the board. His areas of focus include Jewish causes, children, medical research, free enterprise and the community. A centerpiece of his desire to give back to the community is the $290 million Georgia Aquarium, which opened in Atlanta in November 2005 and is the largest aquarium in the world.