NET WORTH: $2.5 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Bloomberg L.P.
FUNDING AREAS: Education, Science & Medicine, Human Services & Economic Opportunity, Arts & Culture, Nutrition & Health, Other Causes
OVERVIEW: Charles Zegar and his wife, Merryl Snow Zegar, established the Zegar Family Foundation in 2007 to “give back by improving the lives of others and enhancing the communities and larger world around us.” The Zegars maintain a broad variety of philanthropic interests. Their foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, but welcomes inquiries and ideas.
BACKGROUND: Zegar was born to a Jewish family of modest means in New York. His mother was a musical comedy performer and opera singer and his father was a subway conductor. He graduated from Long Island University and earned a masters degree in computer science from New York University. While working at Salomon Brothers, he met Michael Bloomberg, who offered Zegar an ownership stake in the financial data company he was starting. Zegar headed up software development for the company that would become Bloomberg LP. Merryl Snow Zegar is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and earned a J.D. degree from Fordham University. She has worked as an attorney and an administrative law judge in New York City.
EDUCATION: The Zegars support education broadly. In 2017, they supported research on climate change and coral bleaching at the University of California at Santa Barbara with a gift of over $1 million. The couple has also given several millions to New York University, where Charles Zegar serves on the board of trustees. Other past education grantees include the Trevor Day School, Long Island University, Johns Hopkins University and the Posse Foundation, which runs a multicultural student leadership program in the U.S.
SCIENCE & MEDICINE: Grantees in the area of science and medicine include the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Columbia University Medical Center. At New York University, the Zegars have funded studies on plant genomics.
HUMAN SERVICES & ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY: The couple’s philanthropy in this area aims to help “disadvantaged people help themselves through opportunities for economic growth and/or personal development.” Grantees have included the veteran’s organization Heroes in Transition, the Robin Hood Foundation, which aims to alleviate poverty in New York, and Shelter Box, an organization that provides disaster relief in the U.S. and abroad.
ARTS & CULTURE: Merryl Snow Zegar serves on the boards of New York’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the Santa Barbara Center for Performing Arts. The couple also supports the Museum of the City of New York, National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Little Orchestra Society, Figure Skating in Harlem, and the National Parks Conservation Association.
NUTRITION & HEALTH: The Zegars have expressed a strong interest in nutrition and have supported several organizations that aim to help people make better food choices. Past grantees include Wellness in the Schools, Wholesome Wave, and Slow Food.
OTHER CAUSES: In keeping with their broad philanthropic range, the Zegars have supported various organizations in the areas of human rights, justice, and conservation. They have also invested internationally. One grantee, the GEANCO Foundation works in the areas of health and education to “transform the lives of the poor and vulnerable in Africa.”
LOOKING FORWARD: The Zegars’ philanthropy is robust and their priorities represent a broad range of issues. According to their foundation website, they are “always open to new ideas,” suggesting a flexibility and willingness to adapt to changing needs within their areas of interest.