Gerald H. Oppenheimer
Executive, philanthropist, and community leader, Gerald H. “Jerry” Oppenheimer died peacefully surrounded by friends and family on May 4, 2021. He was 98.
For almost six decades, the UCLA Stein Eye Institute has been the recipient of Jerry’s knowledge, skill, and philanthropic giving.
After the death of his stepfather, Dr. Jules Stein, and his mother, Doris Stein, Jerry took an active role in promoting their legacy at UCLA. He helped in establishing both the Doris Stein Eye Research Center and the Edie & Lew Wasserman Building, which transformed the Stein Eye Institute into a vision-science campus at UCLA. He was a hands-on member of the Stein Eye family, guiding the Jules and Doris Stein UCLA Support Group and serving as Consultant to the Board of Trustees.
“Jerry was dedicated to advancing the goal of a lifetime of good eyesight for everyone. He was beloved by all and known for his cordial, friendly, and supportive personality. He brought out the best in everyone,” says Bartly J. Mondino, MD, chair of the UCLA Department of Ophthalmology and director of the Stein Eye Institute. “In addition, Jerry’s remarkable altruism and vision have created unique programs that have jump-started hundreds of investigations.”
As president of the Oppenheimer Family Foundation, Jerry assumed a leadership role in shaping and supporting the future of medical research at both UCLA and Stein Eye. The Stein Eye Center for the Prevention of Eye Disease, established in 2002 with a $3.1 million pledge from the Foundation, is committed to the discovery of agents and methods to prevent ophthalmic disease. And more than 320 young scientists are advancing medicine with seed funding from the Stein/Oppenheimer Endowment Fund, which has provided over $542.5 million in research grants.
“Jerry’s focused support has helped ensure we remain at the forefront of scientific breakthroughs and maintain our worldwide preeminence in patient care, education, and research,” says Bradley R. Straatsma, MD, JD, founding chair of the Department and founding director of the Institute. Jerry’s patronage also extended to the most vulnerable in our community. In 2007, the Gerald Oppenheimer Family Foundation Center for the Prevention of Eye Disease directed a significant contribution to the Indigent Children and Families Ophthalmic Care Program, which provides much-needed ophthalmic medical care to economically disadvantaged children and adults.
Jerry was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 11, 1922. He began his career at 18, founding an aviation components business that counted Lockheed Martin and North American Aviation among its clients. During the Korean War, Jerry piloted F84 jets for the Strategic Air Command, flying 21 combat missions. He found later success in the banking, automotive, and software technology industries.
Jerry began actively supporting nonprofit organizations in the early 1980s. In addition to his advocacy on behalf of the Stein Eye Institute, pioneering research is being conducted through multi-year Oppenheimer grants to promote clinical and education efforts through the UCLA Medical Center in Complementary, Alternative and Integrative Medicine programs, and ongoing research in mind-body interactions is being accomplished at the Gail and Jerry Oppenheimer Center for the Neurobiology of Stress at UCLA and at the Center for East-West Medicine.
Jerry served on the UCLA Foundation Board of Trustees and Board of Governors. He was a Life Member of the Alumni Association and received the University Service Award in 1989. Among his other honors, Mr. Oppenheimer was the recipient of the Blind Children’s Center Humanitarian Award; the California Institute for Cancer Research Lifetime Achievement Award; the Children’s Bureau of Southern California Tradition of Caring Award; and the International Research Foundation for Children’s Eyecare Vision of Light Award.
Jerry is survived by his wife Gail, his sons Bill and Mark, stepchildren Britt, Pablo, and Alyce, along with 10 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a memorial gift to support UCLA Health. Donations may be directed to The UCLA Foundation, ATTN: Lauren Bayans; PO Box 7145, Pasadena, CA 91109-9903; (310) 560-4287. Please make checks payable to The UCLA Foundation, and include "in memory of Gerald Oppenheimer, Fund 15610E" in the memo line.