Her lifelong commitment to philanthropy has provided opportunities for countless members of the college community.


Brooklyn College Remembers Claire Tow '52

July 10, 2014

Leonard '50 and Claire '52 Tow

Philanthropist Claire Tow '52 died peacefully on July 7 after a 14-year struggle with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS). She was 83.

Born on August 29, 1930 in Brooklyn, NY, Claire was the daughter of Sigmund and Sadie Schneider. Growing up in Brighton Beach, Claire followed in her older sister Lucille's footsteps, attending Abraham Lincoln High School and then coming to Brooklyn College, where she majored in education.

Claire met Leonard Tow '50 at Brooklyn College in 1949. Leonard was a member of the Longfellows Club, a group of 6-foot or taller male Brooklyn College students. Claire was a member of the Hi Hites, an organization of women of a similar stature.  Their courtship began with a date at the Park Circle Roller Skating Rink and they were married three years later, a few weeks after Claire's graduation in 1952.

Leonard earned a doctorate in economics and found success in the nascent cable television industry. The Tows, both of whom had grown up poor, now had the resources to be among the earliest and most active supporters of the Brooklyn College Foundation, a commitment to their alma mater that only increased after the couple created the Tow Foundation in 1988.

Now overseen by Emily Tow Jackson, the executive director and the Tows' daughter, the Tow Foundation focuses on vulnerable families, juvenile justice, medical research, cultural institutions and higher education. At Brooklyn College, the Tow Foundation has provided endowments for internship programs, scholarships, and faculty travel fellowships, as well as undergraduate travel stipends for students conducting research outside of the United States.

The Tows also donated a $10 million challenge grant that sparked the creation of the Leonard & Claire Tow Center for the Performing Arts, a rehearsal, production, and performance space now under construction. The new complex will serve as the premiere artistic center in the borough, providing world-class programming and cultural enrichment for the surrounding community, and continuing the Tows' longstanding dedication to Brooklyn College.

She is survived by her husband Leonard, her three children and their spouses, and eight grandchildren. 

Contributions in Claire's name may be made to the ALS Association, Greater New York Chapter. The association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure for Lou Gehrig's Disease.  

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