Herb Kaplan guided The Warren Alpert Foundation’s transformative gifts to the Medical School.
On January 2, Brown lost one of its stalwart supporters when business leader and philanthropist Herbert M. Kaplan, MBA LHD’11 died at his home in Providence. He was 81.
As president of The Warren Alpert Foundation, Kaplan was instrumental in the naming gift the foundation made to Brown in 2007 and an additional gift of $27 million made late last year.
In business, Kaplan worked alongside his uncle Warren Alpert, who founded Warren Equities, a petroleum and convenience store business. Together, they grew the business, including its signature brand, XtraMart—which had achieved annual sales of more than $1 billion by the time of Alpert’s death in 2007. Kaplan served as president and CEO from 1993 to 2006. From 2007 to 2012 he was chairman and CEO, and from 2012 until the company’s sale in 2015, to Global Partners LP, he remained chairman.
Kaplan’s daughter, Bevin Kaplan Reifer, remembers him as a man with tireless dedication to both his work and his loved ones. “He wouldn’t miss work for a vacation, but he would miss work to help me study for every history exam,” she says.
Reifer, the director and vice president of The Warren Alpert Foundation, says her father showed unusual kindness to his employees. “He was brilliant in business, but always humble,” she says. “People on the outside often remarked that they had never seen the same degree of loyalty from one’s employees, that it was almost unheard of. Once people came, they stayed. It was family.”
Kaplan was equally devoted to advancing the family’s philanthropic passion: medical research. The Warren Alpert Foundation annually awards a $500,000 prize for outstanding research that has honored some of the most influential and important figures in biomedical science. Kaplan was a founding member of the Noble Deeds Society of the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City and served as an honorary trustee of the Brookings Institute.
At Brown, Kaplan served on the Medical School Committee of the Corporation. The foundation’s naming gift
to Brown’s medical school was instrumental in the school opening its new building in 2011. At a dedication ceremony in October of that year, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras declared October 21 “Herbert Kaplan Day” and gave him a key to the city. Brown also awarded Kaplan an honorary doctoral degree in 2011, for his dedicated work to improve health care and academic medicine.
A Parting Gift
In its 10th year of partnership with the Medical School, The Warren Alpert Foundation announced in November 2016 that it would give an additional $27 million to support two top-priority projects at the Warren Alpert Medical School.
Of the new gift, $22 million endowed the Warren Alpert Physician-Scientist MD/PhD and Advanced Training Program, which will enable more students to pursue the joint degree—which takes on average eight years to complete—with the crucial help of tuition assistance and research stipends.
“This gift from The Warren Alpert Foundation will allow us to grow Brown’s MD/PhD program in a way that has never been possible before,” Jack A. Elias, MD, dean of medicine and biological sciences, says. “MD/PhD physician researchers see patients in the clinic, understand the challenges of the diseases they study, and transfer those insights to work in their labs. These scholars are a critical ingredient for any school to truly excel in translational research.”
The other $5 million of the new gift will create the Warren Alpert Professorship, the first endowed professorship in the Brown Institute for Translational Science (BITS). The centerpiece of the Medical School’s strategic plan, BITS fosters integrated teams of researchers to make breakthroughs on specific diseases and other pressing medical challenges. They work to turn basic science findings into treatments for patients.
“Translating scientific discoveries into clinical solutions has been consistent with the ethos of our foundation from its inception,” Reifer says. “This relationship with Brown has evolved beyond our greatest expectations.”
During the past three-and-a-half years, Elias says he got to know Kaplan on a deeply personal level. “We would often meet on Saturday and Sunday mornings at our favorite greasy spoon diners throughout Providence and discuss everything from life to current events,” he says. “Herb was a wonderful man who was brilliant, loyal, and compassionate while being incredibly humble.”
Brown President Christina Paxson says that Kaplan’s passion for improving the quality of health care was boundless. “Generations of students, clinicians, and patients will benefit from the vision and generosity with which Herb Kaplan led The Warren Alpert Foundation,” she says. “Herb was the driving force behind the foundation’s investments in the Warren Alpert Medical School. His influence was integral in positioning the Medical School to have a transformative impact on medical education and research. His loss is deeply felt at Brown.”
Born March 24, 1935, and raised in Newton, MA, Kaplan was a longtime resident of Manhattan before making his final home in Providence. After graduating from Vermont Academy, Kaplan earned his bachelor’s degree at Hobart College and his MBA from Babson College. In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Alida (McFadden) Kaplan; his son-in-law, Daniel Reifer; and a grandson, William. Kaplan’s commitment to improving health and fostering research in basic sciences, disease pathogenesis, and therapeutic development will live on in the foundation’s support of the Warren Alpert Medical School.
“[Herb] had a tireless dedication to leaving the world in a better state,” Elias says, “and he clearly did that.”
Gifts in Kaplan’s honor can be made to the Herb M. Kaplan Memorial Term Medical Scholarship, Brown University, Box 1889, Providence RI 02912.
Additional reporting by David Orenstein and Noel Rubinton ’77.