Bernard Rapoport, a Waco businessman who was active in higher education, politics, human rights and philanthropy, died Thursday, April 5.
“The University of Texas and our state have lost a great friend who was relentless in his support of education, democracy, the arts and creating opportunity for the people of Texas,” said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “When B Rapoport took an interest in something, he gave everything — his ideas, his vision, his energy and his money. He changed the lives of countless students, and he changed the university campus in countless ways.”
Rapoport earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1939. He went on to serve as chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents, as a member of the Commission of 125 and on many university advisory boards.
In 1997 he was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award, and the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Building on campus is named for him and his widow, as is the Rapoport Atrium in the Blanton Museum of Art. The couple established the Rapoport Endowment for International and Multidisciplinary Studies in the College of Liberal Arts, the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice in the School of Law, and an endowed professorship in health and social policy in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. In addition, they supported many other scholarships and endowments.
Rapoport was born in 1917 in San Antonio to Jewish Russian immigrants. He once said, “During my childhood, my father taught me Marxism and hard work. My mother taught me to love learning. To know these simple facts is to know much about who I am and why I have led my life the way I have.”
In September 1936 he began the study of economics at The University of Texas at Austin, where, he later said, “my life really began.”
Rapoport’s memoir, “Being Rapoport: Capitalist with a Conscience,” was published by the University of Texas Press in 2002. His papers and archives are housed in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin.
“I’m honored to have enjoyed B’s friendship, and I will miss him,” said Powers. “My sympathy goes out to the Rapoport family.”