"He never forgot where and how he grew up, and he worked tirelessly to support his community in countless ways that were seen and unseen."
This is the way Drew Katz, son of philanthropist and businessman Lewis Katz described his father after learning of his tragic death. On Saturday, Katz and six other people were killed in a fiery plane crash in Massachusetts.
In May 2014, the Camden, New Jersey native made news headlines along with his business partner H.F. Gerry Lenfest for their successful bid to acquire and become co-owners of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com. His goal in assuming ownership of the papers, he said, was to revive the news organization by funding in-depth journalism.
But Katz 's legacy of charity to organizations, schools, and communities in his hometown Camden, and in his adopted second home Philadelphia, extends well beyond his latest acquisition.
Katz was raised in the Parkside section of Camden by his mother, a single parent who was widowed when Katz's father died of a heart attack shortly after he was born.
He received his early education in neighborhood grade schools and graduated from Camden High School before coming to Philadelphia to attend Temple University. He later attended Penn State University's Dickinson Law School.
Katz gave back liberally to organizations throughout his hometown. He made generous contributions to help build two Boys & Girls Clubs in Camden and went on to sit on the board of governors for the organization. The two clubs serve nearly 3,000 young people each year.
Breaking news and the stories that matter to your neighborhood.
Katz also founded two charter schools, the Katz Academies, in the Parkside and Cramer Hill sections of Camden. He also supported an annual scholarship program and field trips for children in the Nazarene Baptist Church congregation. Katz made similar contributions to Catholic schools in the region. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Camden said Katz had an "outstanding devotion to humanity."
Treasurer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia Wayne Kimmel noted Katz's contributions to three Jewish Community Centers in N.J. The Katz JCC in Cherry Hill is named after Katz's parents, Milton and Betty.
"To see the work that he has done with the three JCCs, those JCCs are an incredible way of giving back to the community and doing something in honor of his family, but also just helping similar people," Kimmel said.
CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern New jersey Jennifer Weiss said Katz's "heart and soul was truly about giving back to the community."
"Lewis has been an incredible philanthropist to the Jewish Federation, as well as to all of our agencies, including the JCCs. His philanthropy has allowed us to provide so many programs and services to people who are less fortunate in the community," Weiss said.
Over the years, Katz donated millions of dollars to the schools that helped groom him in his youth, including a $25 million donation to Temple University's School of Medicine in May 2014. The school is soon to be renamed the School of Medicine for Katz.
Katz also made a $15 million gift to the Dickinson School of Law. In 2009, Penn State University opened the Lewis Katz Building, named in his honor. A year later, the school named a hall in the Carlisle building, Lewis Katz Hall.
Katz sat on the board of trustees for the Dickinson School of Law and Temple University, as well as the board of directors for Temple Hospital University Health System and the Fox Chase Cancer Center.
As a businessman and legal expert, Katz served as a founding partner of Katz, Ettin & Levine law firm in Cherry Hill, N.J., and as the majority owner of five radio stations in Atlantic and Cape May counties at the Jersey shore. He earned much of his fortune while serving as the former owner of Kinney Parking Systems--the once largest parking company in New York City--and as a former owner of the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils.
Katz's son, Drew Katz, released a statement shortly after learning of his father's death on Sunday, calling him a family man, and a man of the people.
"He loved his native city of Camden and his adopted home of Philadelphia," he said.
"He believed in strengthening education through his founding of charter schools, his support of the Boys & Girls Clubs and his generosity to his alma maters, Temple University and Dickinson Law School. But his greatest accomplishment by far was being the most amazing father to my sister and me, and grandparent to his four grandchildren.”
Kimmel said the timing of Katz's passing, just as he was set to take over two of Philadelphia's largest newspapers this month, is unfortunate.
"It's a shame that he didn't really get a chance to put his mark on the papers because I think he was going to do more than just revive the Inquirer," Kimmel said.
"He was just a great leader in the community and that’s something that there’s very few of in Philadelphia. We just lost one of them and that’s something that this community desperately needs."
Gov. Tom Corbett and his wife, Susan Corbett said they were "shocked and saddened" by the death of Katz, a man whom they both called a friend.
"The legacy he leaves behind is one of a brilliant businessman with a profound commitment to make a difference, as evidenced by the many civic institutions he supported. But it was his beautiful soul and his quiet acts of philanthropy that we most admired," the Corbett's said in a statement.
"In his words, ‘It’s never a perfect day, unless you help someone who can never hope to repay you.’"