You know when you meet a really warm person — the sort of individual who immediately puts you at ease? That's Morris Rapoport. Right away, you notice his keen intellect. And you learn about his wide range of accomplishments: his career as a chemist, his talent for international folk dancing, his patents. Then, when discussing his passion for Jewish studies, he delves into a memory that makes you sit up a bit straighter.
He tells you about his childhood in Toronto, where he first encountered blatant anti-Semitism. He recalls walking by restaurants and shops displaying hateful words like "Jews and dogs not allowed" and "Only Christians need apply." He tells you he lost family members in the Holocaust. Understandably, these memories serve as a potent reminder to stay vigilant in promoting tolerance and understanding, and Morris believes Rice University plays an important role in this effort.
That's one reason why he discussed his interests with Rice staff and established the Morris and Shirley Rapoport Jewish Studies Fund — to support Rice's Program in Jewish Studies. The fund will fuel cutting-edge scholarship, community engagement and educational initiatives for students of all faiths. Having it in place now allows Morris, his daughter, Nancy Rapoport '82, and Nancy's husband, Jeff Van Niel, to make current gifts, while Morris' two planned gifts — a charitable gift annuity and a bequest in his estate — will ensure lasting support for this cause close to his heart.
The Rapoport family's legacy extends well beyond Morris' bequest intention. Morris also established the Morris and Shirley Rapoport Award in Jewish Studies to support undergraduates, and he created the Shirley Bard Rapoport Graduate Essay Prize to reward Ph.D. candidates in the English department and honor his beloved wife, who was a talented writer.
Seeing his daughter thrive during her years at Rice inspired Morris to engage with the university on a deeper level. "Rice broadens its students' minds," Morris remarked. "Nancy loved her time at Rice — it taught her to push herself and do what was necessary to succeed."
Morris', Nancy's and Jeff's gifts to the Rapoport Fund will help build open-mindedness in generations of student leaders. "Through planned giving," Morris commented, "donors are assured that they're building something that will last."
"The Rapoports' generosity was instrumental in getting the Program in Jewish Studies going," commented Matthias Henze, director of the Program in Jewish Studies. "Morris and Nancy are deeply devoted to Rice, and we are most fortunate to have such dedicated supporters."