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1984-1997: Honoring Albert Herzstein

Until his later years, Mr. Herzstein worked quietly supporting charities, always behind the scenes. It was not until the late 1980’s that the Herzstein Foundation became well known in Houston’s philanthropic community.  Mr. Herzstein received many awards over the years and in 1993, he was nominated for the American Philanthropist of the Year, an award sponsored by The Columbus Foundation.  Albert Herzstein passed away on March 16, 1997, and was buried next to his beloved Ethel in Fulshear, Texas.

The Fulshear building was the beginning of Mr. Herzstein’s major philanthropic endeavors. Over the years, he provided funding for buildings for the Chinquapin School, The Houston Food Bank, The SEARCH Homeless Project, and countless others. All of these facilities bear the names of Ethel and Albert Herzstein. And his opinion of making these gifts? He told people, “I am the luckiest man in the world. It’s fun to give money away. It’s really crazy. Can you imagine me running around looking at places and giving money away?"

Until his later years, Mr. Herzstein worked quietly supporting charities, always behind the scenes. Starting out with five dollars in Houston, he understood people who were struggling to get by. Subsequently, it was not until the late 1980’s that the Herzstein Foundation became well known in Houston’s philanthropic community. But as always, Al Herzstein entered the chronicles of philanthropy in much the same fashion as he donated gifts, in a very big way!

In 1993, Mr. Herzstein was nominated for the American Philanthropist of the Year, an award sponsored by The Columbus Foundation. The selection committee members included Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund, Bill Moyers, and Dr. Jonas Salk. Al was chosen as Philanthropist of the Year, with the runner-up being Walter Annenberg.

When he was told of the award, he looked up incredulously and said, “Jonas Salk picked ME?” At the grand awards ceremony held at the Ohio Theater, he told the audience, “How you people came to pick a small man from the big state of Texas, and from the small part of United States, to be honored in such a big way, I don’t understand. So, thank you very, very much for your good and fine consideration.”

Mr. Herzstein received many awards during his lifetime. His single regret in life was that he had not completed high school or attended college. His most cherished awards, therefore, were the honorary degrees. Mr. Herzstein received an honorary High School Diploma from St. Pius X High School  and proudly displayed in his office the diploma  graciously presented by  Sister Donna Pollard and Sister Lavergne Schwender  of St. Pius X High School.   Mr. Herzstein also regarded the honorary degree from the University of St. Thomas as a "crown to his contributions."

He passed away on March 16, 1997, and was buried next to his beloved Ethel in Fulshear, Texas. For those who knew Mr. Herzstein, Ann Smith, Former Board Member and Director of Development at The Chinquapin School, said it best: “With Al gone, it was the end of an era. He made fundraising fun. He will always be missed.”

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