Bruce and Martha Karsh

NET WORTH: $2 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Private equity manager, Oaktree Capital Group

FUNDING AREAS: Education, health care, Jewish charities

OVERVIEW: Through the Karsh Family Foundation, Bruce Karsh and his wife Martha give a lot of huge donations to educational institutions, nonprofits supporting research into a number of diseases and a number of Jewish charities. . The lion’s share of funds has gone to the family’s alma maters, primarily Duke.  

BACKGROUND: Bruce Karsh attended Duke University as an undergraduate and then the University of Virginia Law school, where he met classmate and future wife, Martha. Karsh founded Los Angeles-based investment firm Oaktree Capital Management with longtime business partner Howard Marks in 1995.


HEALTH: The Karshes have also given to a various health-related institutions focused on such ailments as Tourette’s, juvenile diabetes, and cancer, though not in news-grabbing amounts. There are numerous miscellaneous donees, including such organizations as a rotary club, but the amounts are often modest or middling. A more significant trend can be seen in gifts to Jewish organizations, including day schools, synagogues, the United Jewish Fund, and the Jewish Museum, which range from very small amounts to two or three hundred thousand dollars (for instance, the Holocaust Center in Washington received just $1 thousand in 2009, whereas a Jewish Community Center received $200 thousand in 2010).

EDUCATION: Brown University, where one of the Karsh children has attended, partnered with KIPP in 2012 to deliver scholarships. The Karshes gave $2.5 million towards the effort. The Karshes like to keep benefitting schools in the family, and so random, unknown schools probably need not apply for funding. But the most important thing is the Karshes’ focus on the larger impact philanthropy can make on a distressed educational system across the board. They are interested in seeing it through, from grammar school to college, as they donate to institutions that help prepare young students, particularly disadvantaged ones, for lifelong success.

LOOKING FORWARD: As long as organizations like KIPP and Teach for America keep up the good work in the Karshes’ eyes, or unless something better comes along with an even grander vision for improved education and access, they will likely continue to top the lists of donees. And, for the moment, anyway, all roads toward lifelong success seem to lead to Duke and, secondarily, Penn, which may be good news, alas, only for top students.


  • Marsha L. Karsh, Trustee, Karsh Family Foundation, 1201 Tower Grove Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, (213) 830-6402