Stanley Manne, a self-made businessman, investor, and philanthropist, is on a mission to make the next generation as successful as he has been.
Manne was a poor kid from the Bronx who had the smarts and luck to attend a world-class high school, Bronx High School of Science, graduating in 1952. He credits the school for his love of science, education, and forging his life path.
That’s why Manne gave $18 million last year to the Bronx alumni foundation to build a state-of-the-art Bronx Science scientific research center. It was the largest gift ever presented to Bronx Science and the largest gift to a NYC public school in history. Some 3,000 students attend the high school, coming from the Bronx as well as the surrounding communities.
“This is about building a future generation of people, giving them the same opportunities I had,” Manne says, “so they too can build their futures and make a contribution back.”
First-Generation College Grad
Manne, a William Blair private client for nearly five decades, knows the struggles of economic hardship. A son of working-class Russian Jewish immigrants, he was the youngest of four boys and the first in his family to graduate from college. He credits his eldest brother for providing him the means to get an education.
After Bronx Science, Manne earned a degree in chemical engineering from Columbia University in New York and later an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. A chemical engineering job brought Manne to Chicago early in his career. Over the years, Manne held several chemical engineering positions before buying Brawny Plastics, an industrial manufacturer of plastic bags, in 1985.
Manne, along with former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York State Senator and Bronx alum Jamaal Bailey, and several other officials as well as William Blair employees attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Manne Institute in July 2021.
The institute, scheduled to be completed late 2022, will be a 10,000-plus-square-foot facility that includes three labs and supporting workspaces for scientific research. It aims to foster curiosity and drive students to success.
“To receive a gift like this is an investment in science, an investment in great minds,” says Eleanor Coufos, who heads the Bronx Science foundation. “Giving students the opportunity to conduct experiments, to gain scientific training, and to explore ideas—doesn’t just change their careers, it changes the world.
“This also gives us an opportunity to work with several schools nearby that don’t have a lot of the opportunities and educational experiences we have at Bronx Science.”
Bronx Science, founded in 1938, is well known for its excellence in education. Its alumni represent leaders in science, industry, finance and include eight Nobel Prize winners, the most from any high school in the world.
Plans for the institute began several years ago when Manne approached the Bronx alumni foundation about doing something special for the school, recalls Bob Grubin, an alumni foundation board member. The board came back with some proposals “and in typical Stan fashion, he said, 'you have to think bigger.' He wanted a stand-alone building with state-of-the-art science labs.”
Throughout his career, Manne has always given back to those who wish to rise above their challenges. He created the Manne Family Foundation in 1997 specifically to foster education, self-sufficiency, and success. In 2014, the foundation made a gift to Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago to establish the Stanley Manne research facility focused on improving child health. He has also been a huge supporter of Misericordia, a Chicago nonprofit dedicated to helping those with disabilities reach their greatest potential.
“His gifts to Lurie, Misericordia, Bronx Science underscore his passion for helping children,” says Alice Zawaski, a member of the William Blair wealth advisory team who works with Manne. “With Bronx, he often says there’s just not enough kids pursuing biotech and wants to encourage them to learn more.”