Elliot Handler, who, along with his late wife Ruth and friend Harold “Matt” Matson, grew Mattel, Inc. from a home-based picture-frame business into the world’s largest toy maker, passed away on July 21, 2011, at his Century City home. He was 95. He is credited with inventing the Hot Wheels brand, which was introduced in 1968 following the success of the Barbie doll, created by Mrs. Handler in 1959.
In 1998, Mattel pledged $25 million to name UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, marking the largest single gift made to any children’s hospital by a corporation or corporate foundation. It has been the title sponsor of the hospital’s annual fundraiser, Mattel Party on the Pier, since 2000 and regularly donates toys to child-life enrichment programs. The company established the Mattel Executive Endowed Chair in Pediatrics, held by Dr. Sherin U. Devaskar, and continues to support pediatric healthcare and research initiatives at UCLA , including pledging $100,000 to create the Elliot Handler Play Fund. On a personal level, Mr. Handler generously donated to Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA and the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is survived by his daughter Barbara Segal, for whom the iconic Barbie doll was named.
Edith (Edie) Wasserman, widow of Lew Wasserman, passed away on August 18, 2011, at age 95 in Beverly Hills. Her grandson Casey Wasserman noted in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, “She had very strong convictions and was dogged in her pursuit of those. And they usually involved helping others.” The Wassermans were “the undisputed king and queen of Hollywood,” and Mrs. Wasserman was not only at the center of Hollywood society, but she also was recognized for her exceptional fundraising skills, resulting in the family’s tradition of charity.
With her husband, Mrs. Wasserman raised millions of dollars for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, the Music Center, CalArts and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, among other major entities in Southern California. At UCLA , they established the Edith and Lew Wasserman Fund for Undergraduate Support in the College of Letters and Science, and the Jules Stein Eye Institute was the beneficiary of their philanthropy for a half century. In that regard, the couple established the Edith and Lew Wasserman Professor of Ophthalmology, and the Edie and Lew Wasserman Building is being constructed at the Stein Plaza on campus in honor of their long-standing commitment. Mrs. Wasserman is survived by her daughter Lynne Wasserman, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.