Kaplan: COO, Kaplan Family Foundation, Philanthropist, Social
in career choice:
Fast-talking, fast-acting Rita Kaplan didn’t so much choose a
career in social work as plunge into it, following the model of
her strong, encouraging, and compassionate mother. Turning to
social work was inevitable. “I like working with people,” particularly
with families, most especially with mothers. Rita had contemplated
a career in medicine. While her parents encouraged her choice
of careers, they felt medical school admission would be closed
to a woman.
pointsý Her career and the new directions that came from them
included going to the University of Wisconsin at Madison and marrying
the equally irrepressible Stanley H. Kaplan whose educational
enterprise, and later, Foundation, made them among the most generous
husband-and-wife benefactors of the arts, medicine, health care,
and Jewish studies. (They have been married for 53 years.)
It took a great deal of courage to face the death of their
son Paul, from AIDS some years ago. Rita prides herself on having
that fact reflected in The Times obituary. Her mother and
father “did not raise her to hide the truth.” Gay causes have
since occupied much of her time, in this country and in Israel.
Other obstacles? There are none when Rita goes into high gear.
She meets challenges head on and either vanquishes them or changes
course in such a way that they are co-opted.
Of a lifetime of accomplishments, she is most proud, she says,
of being able to support organizations and work whose values she
respects. She practices a fiercely focused and educated giving,
in all senses. “Women get shafted.” They couldn’t have a stronger,
more determined advocate than Kaplan coming on, which is just
about always. She’s proud to recall a recent remark about her,
“Rita stands up and talks from the gut.” The Kaplan Cancer Research
Center is just one of her and Stanley’s many major achievements.
They began with her immediate family, though roots matter in an
ambient but influential way: 87 family members died in Poland,
she points out. Her support of Jewish causes, and particularly
those that deal with family and children’s services is an almost
genetically programmed commitment.
“Don’t be afraid, let yourself be heard, fight for what you believe
in.” She advocates going away to college because of the independence
it fosters. She recalls fondly the fear and thrill of looking
for a room with her first cousin, Lauren Bacall because dorms
were not available. She was turned down numerous times because
she was Jewish, but she would not give up.
goals: “I’ll always fight battles, you’ll hear my voice.”#
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