Philanthropist pledges $50 million to Hopkins Zanvyl Krieger favors medicine and baseball

December 21, 1992|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

If there were a Philanthropy Hall of Fame in Baltimore, Zanvyl Krieger's place would have been secure long ago.

He has been a major giver here for years, contributing some $24 million to medical research, the symphony and various Jewish causes.

There's the Kennedy Krieger Institute for handicapped children, to which he gave $5 million last year. Johns Hopkins University has the Krieger Mind/Brain Institute thanks to his $7.5 million gift, and Sinai Hospital has the Krieger Eye Institute. That's also his name on the Associated Jewish Charities building on Mount Royal Avenue.

And while they won't rename the Johns Hopkins University in honor of his $50 million gift being announced today, he will surely be known for years as the university's most generous benefactor.

Around town, he is probably best known as the man who helped bring the Orioles and Colts to Baltimore.

Mr. Krieger made his fortune as a leading investor in the start-up in 1964 of U.S. Surgical Corp., a company that revolutionized medicine with surgical staples and other innovations. His real estate holdings for a time included the Lord Baltimore Hotel.

He used his holdings in the company in 1978 to start the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund Inc., named for himself and his wife, Isabelle, who died in 1986.

"I like to plant seeds, to get involved from the outside," he said. His pleasure from giving comes from something as simple as visiting the Kennedy Krieger Institute. "All you have to do is walk through Kennedy and see those kids," he said. "To feel that you're helping them is a great satisfaction."

A Baltimore native, Mr. Krieger is the son of an Austrian immigrant who made a good living with a wholesale liquor business, then switched to investment banking during Prohibition.

Even in high school at City College, Mr. Krieger's friends saw he had a way with money.

"Staid bankers you are due for a shock," read a blurb about him in the 1924 yearbook. "Our little wizard of finance will soon fare forth to seek his fortune."

Mr. Krieger graduated from Hopkins' School of Arts and Sciences in 1928 with a degree in political science. He went on to Harvard Law School and returned to Baltimore in the early 1930s to practice commercial law.

During World War II, he worked in legal affairs and intelligence in the Army Air Force, rising to the rank of major. For years, he has been a partner with the Baltimore law firm of Weinberg and Green and still maintains an office there.

In 1954, Mr. Krieger and another lawyer, Clarence Miles, bought the old St. Louis Browns for $2.5 million and brought them here as the Orioles. He later owned part of the Baltimore Colts and still wears championship rings won by both teams.

"He always felt a desire to be a big-league ballplayer, but he was always the water boy on the team because he never got to be more than 5 feet 2," his nephew, Baltimore ophthalmologist Herman Goldberg, told a Sun reporter last year. "Since he couldn't make the team, he bought it."

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