Giving It His All

Giving It His All


Philantropist Ed Shapiro (’90) receives UCLA Anderson’s highest alumni honor

February 28, 2024

  • Ed Shapiro (’90) is recipient of the 2024 John E. Anderson Distinguished Alumni Award
  • The retired investment manager now dedicates himself full time to philanthropic endeavors
  • Shapiro’s foundation focuses on aid to refugees and education, among other worthy causes

Most folks have their own New Year’s Eve traditions. Some go to parties. Others stay home, settle in and watch the ball drop in New York’s Times Square.

For many years, the Shapiros — Ed and Barbara — popped the cork on a bottle of wine and gave away money to those in need.

For two decades, Ed Shapiro (’90) put in long hours at Boston-based investment management firm PAR Capital Management, where he most recently served as a managing partner. The long hours, in part, allowed Shapiro to found the Shapiro Foundation Trust along with his wife Barbara. Shapiro, though, acknowledges that he was then a passive philanthropist, devoting as few as 10 hours per year to the foundation. He and Barbara established that New Year’s Eve tradition in which they’d drink some wine in order to spend a couple of hours figuring out how to meet the 5% minimum donations a foundation is required to disperse every year.

It seems like a gratifying way to end the year, deciding how best to financially support the causes that mean the most. But the task was not without its challenges; as the foundation grew, it became more and more challenging to reach the 5% plateau.

“We were growing our foundation pretty significantly through a combination of appreciation and contributions, so that 5% became harder and harder. In 2015, I was at a stage in life where our kids were teenagers and a little less dependent. My career was going well and I was feeling a sense of responsibility to be a little more thoughtful about our giving,” Shapiro says. “It wasn’t that I thought we were doing anything wrong — we were supporting UCLA Anderson’s Student Investment Fund with fellowships, supporting Wharton, UNICEF and other global humanitarian organizations. But I’d been working hard for the past 25 years and it seemed appropriate to become a little more thoughtful about our giving. So, I decided to spend 20% of my time — on average, one day a week — researching new industries I might consider investing in.”

“It’s not just about one party sacrificing for another party’s benefit, but where there might also be opportunities to create win-wins.”

Shapiro’s research did not confine itself to Google searches and newspaper headlines. Rather, he did deep dives into causes he believed in, from education reform to global health to the plight of refugees around the world. He did the reading, sure, but he also leveraged his contacts, began traveling to speak to founders and board members he knew, while witnessing first-hand what needed to be done to help in different parts of the world.

“I became very focused on the idea of refugees as one population among many who are vulnerable,” Shapiro said. “By definition, they fled their country and left everything behind for valid fear for their lives.

“But I also became very interested in trying to find win-win opportunities, like I try do in a lot of parts of my life. It’s not just about one party sacrificing for another party’s benefit, but where there might also be opportunities to create win-wins, that’s really interesting.”

Providing services, Shapiro realized, was not just a humanitarian obligation whose benefit was only felt by those in immediate need. Rather, the benefit cut both ways, as refugees from one part of the world positively impacted their new countries and communities once they settled. “Let’s get people out of harm’s way and out of terrible situations, bring them into our communities, and properly support them,” Shapiro says. “And if that works, let it be beneficial to both sides.” To that end, he became involved with a local refugee agency outside Boston that had been looking to engage local community members in sponsoring refugees, but theyneeded Shapiro’s financial assistance to do it. Shapiro dove in, not only contributing financially, but also bringing to bear his contacts and managerial prowess to help settle a group of refugees from Syria. The opportunity became complex, as a supportive presidential administration gave way to one less interested in aiding refugees. Given only the few months between the election and the inauguration to get done what might have taken months or years to complete, the organization managed to settle eight Syrian families in the Boston area. Shapiro decided to step away from his role at PAR and become a full-time philanthropist, working not only with organizations and causes related to refugees, but also supporting educational causes that included those at Anderson, where he and Barbara are major supporters of the Student Investment Fund and creators of 12 fellowships in their names.

Ask him how he got his start in business and Ed Shapiro will tell you about six-year-old Ed, who told his parents he wanted to be a checker at Alpha Beta.

The results of these philanthropic efforts, combined with a storied career as an investment manager, explain why Shapiro is the 2024 recipient of the John E. Anderson Distinguished Alumni Award. The award is the highest accolade for exceptional achievement that UCLA Anderson bestows upon an alumnus, saluting the achievements of outstanding alumni whose personal lives, professional achievements and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.

A Born Businessman

Ask him how he got his start in business and Shapiro will tell you about six-year-old Ed, who told his parents he wanted to be a checker at Alpha Beta (a long defunct grocery chain once ubiquitous across Los Angeles, including the San Fernando Valley, where Shapiro grew up). They explained to him that the checkers did not keep the money they were handed by customers, it was the store owners that kept the money. That led to an explanation of how the stock market worked and, not too many years later, young Ed was investing his lawn mowing earnings and Bar Mitzvah bonds in the stock market — assisted by his grandmother, who drove him to meetings with his Merrill Lynch broker.

A few years later, he attended the University of Pennsylvania to study — what else? — business. “My parents didn’t have the money to send me to an Ivy League school. I could have stayed in California and gone to a public school, which at the time I graduated was basically free,” Shapiro says. “But I really wanted to go to Wharton. I had a vision of what I wanted to do at a very young age. Maybe some kids dream of playing centerfield for the Dodgers or becoming a fireman, but from the moment I opened an investment account, I wanted to be an investment manager.”

In order to attend Penn, Shapiro relied on financial aid and loans that took him about a decade to pay back. He says he decided early on, even before the had a foundation, that he wanted to support financial aid for students.

At Anderson, this desire has manifested in tangible ways, most notably those Student Investment Fund fellowships.

“When I went to Anderson I was the beneficiary of being in the Student Investment Fund and was getting real-world experience, which further convinced me that this was what I wanted to do as a career. I also was inspired by the idea that the donations from others that funded SIF and the fund’s earnings were going to be used for financial aid,” Shapiro says. Over time, though, Anderson’s tuition went up and, while SIF’s financial aid earnings still generated needed benefits, he realized that providing more was essential.

“Without a doubt, the single most important component of my years at Anderson was the Student Investment Fund.”

“So, I said let’s create a fund for them. We can be flexible because I don’t know if it’s going to be one or two or 10 students a year that might receive a fellowship, but let's create a fund and allows me to give back to Anderson, to prospective SIF fellows. Let’s support them financially so that they can have the same benefits from the program that I had and receive the training I had going into the investment business, if that’s what they want to do. That opportunity became really gratifying for me.”

Today, one of the most gratifying things for Shapiro is meeting the Shapiro fellows in person. “Being three thousand miles away, it’s not as easy as it would be if I were in L.A. But I’ve tried every year, if not in person at least remotely, to meet these students, do a guest lecture and talk about my investment business and, if they’re interested, my philanthropy. Meeting them is really powerful. You’re touching lives, and there is no substitute for getting to meet them in person,” Shapiro says.

“Without a doubt, the single most important component of my years at Anderson was the Student Investment Fund. Business school is a great thing. You don’t have to know what you’re going to do afterward. You’ll figure it out,” he says. “But one of the reasons I wanted to go to Anderson was that I heard about SIF, which at the time was only in its fourth or fifth year. I was hopeful that I would be a candidate for it and came to Anderson with that as a priority.”

Shapiro says that his Student Investment Fund experience, particularly his relationships with his five SIF classmates and Professor Bill Cockrum, solidified his desire to pursue a career in investment management. He credits SIF with helping him to land an internship with Kayne Anderson, with deepening his knowledge and advancing his skills, with creating key networking opportunities that ultimately led to his becoming an analyst with Wellington Management Company in Boston, one of the largest global investment managers in the world. “It wouldn’t have happened without the Student Investment Fund and my Anderson experience,” Shapiro says.

“I was honestly blown away when Dean Bernardo called to tell me I was the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award. This is a pool of incredibly distinguished alumni and to even be considered was, to me, just mind blowing,” Shapiro says. He also feels lucky to have pursued a career that he dreamed of at age 12, only to find out it was well paid and that he was “pretty good at it.”

“I tell my kids all the time that if you can find something that you really enjoy as a career, that’s the most important thing,” he says, acknowledging that he once thought he might continue working until he was in his 90s. He also tells his kids about transitioning his career toward philanthropy. He takes satisfaction not only because he has the financial means to help refugees, students and others, but because the skills he honed and developed at Anderson and throughout his long and successful career are applicable in a new, rewarding arena that provides tangible benefits to people in need.

“That I can do this and experience that kind of impact, that makes me feel like — what’s the Jimmy Stewart line? — the luckiest man alive.”

Past recipients of the John E. Anderson Distinguished Alumni Award:

2023: Susan Wojcicki (’98)
2022: Francesco Aquilini (’94)
2021: Janice Chaffin (’81)
2020: Stewart Bainum (’70)
2019: Joel Fried (’86)
2018: Bernard Briskin (’49)
2017: Robert Murley (’74)
2016: Jim Moffatt (’87)
2015: Lonnie Ali (’86)
2014: John E. Parker (’50)
2013: Robert D. Beyer (’83)
2012: Marshall Goldsmith (Ph.D. ’77)
2010: Ambassador Lester B. Korn (’60)
2009: Richard C. Crowell (’80)
2008: Louise L. Francesconi (’78)
2007: Laurence D. Fink (B.A. ’74, ’76)
2006: Kip Hagopian (’66)
2005: Ric Kayne (’68)
2004: Jeff Henley (’67)
2003: Eugene Rosenfeld (’56)
2002: John E. Anderson (B.S. ’40)