Joe Zilber: Milwaukee's Guardian Angel
Probably the best part of my job is meeting people who I admire - those I instantly know are good. People with compassion. People who care.
I have had the pleasure to interview Joseph Zilber twice in the past year. What I've learned is the 90-year-old real estate mogul, and philanthropist is much more than his wealth.
He is a man with a gentle soul, keen observation, and sense of humor. He deeply feels for the less fortunate.
Zilber has a disarming smile that makes everyone feel at ease. He speaks freely of a humble childhood. He remembers struggling to pay his tuition when he was a law student at Marquette University.
Though he lives in Hawaii most of the year, Zilber has never lost his affection for the city. He grew up near 10th and Meinecke.
Joe Zilber has given more than $100 million away over the past year.
He may be the CEO of Zilber Ltd, but he believes his wife was the smartest person he ever met. He speaks lovingly about a long happy marriage. They made a personal pact to use their good fortune to lift Milwaukee.
It's been said more is expected of those who are given much. Well, Joe Zilber has gone far beyond expectations. After amassing a great deal of wealth in his younger years, Zilber is spending his later years giving much of it away.
This week Zilber announced a $50 million gift to help central city neighborhoods. Last year he gave $30 million to the Marquette Law School, and $10 million to UWM for a School of Public Health. Millions more have gone to other charitable causes. Zilber has also pledged to redevelop the former Pabst Brewery.
The beauty of Zilber's generosity is that it spans all groups and socio-economic levels. His benevolence will help families, children, the needy and the homeless. It will help leaders educate, guide, create and discover. His generosity will touch thousands.
Joseph Zilber may be a business mogul. But he is more. He's a humanitarian with a huge heart. At 90-years-old Joseph Zilber is as sharp as a man much younger. But there is a gentleness to this soul that is quite endearing and captivating.
He's the kind of man most would love even if he were penniless. God Bless Joseph Zilber for his selfless dedication to improving souls. Our city faces a lot of challenges. But when we are all long gone, Joe Zilber's presence in Milwaukee will be alive and well.