After a longstanding interpersonal relationship, Mr. Ira Oppenheimer, a Greenwich, Connecticut philanthropist, and Dr. Maria de Sousa, an internationally recognized medical researcher from Portugal, formalized their commitment to collaborative U.S. / Portugal science by the formation of the American-Portuguese Biomedical Research Fund, Inc. on April 23, 1982 under the laws of the state of Oklahoma.
Mr Ira Oppenheimer
Mr Ira Oppenheimer was born in New York City in 1913. He graduated from Harvard University with a BSc. in Mechanical Engineering in 1934. He held executive positions first in the food and later in the coated textile family businesses in Manhattan. He joined the US Army Signal Corps for three and a half years during World War II. After retirement from the coated textile business he was involved with Central Synagogue in New York as a trustee and vice- president. He married Elizabeth Beitler in 1939. They had 4 children. Mrs Oppenheimer had a degree in Music from NYU, studied Greek in Columbia University and later taught Greek at Hunter College. Mrs. Oppenheimer’s own life was to have a decisive influence in the attachment both were to develop for Portugal. After a lung cancer operation in the late sixties the Oppenheimers started going to the Algarve and eventually bought a home in Albufeira where they spent the winters until her death. They met Maria de Sousa for the first time in Albufeira before she came to the States.
Mr. Oppenheimer had qualities that made him an exceptional philanthropist and friend: a good judge of character, a careful and silent observer of attitudes, an anonymous supporter of causes, generous, and, with his first wife, a splendid host in their American and Portuguese homes. He remarried after Betty Oppenheimer’s death in 1991. Shirl Oppenheimer was his wife and dedicated companion till his death in June 2004. Peter Oppenheimer, son of Ira Oppenheimer, has taken over a prominent role at APBRF, first as President and then as Administrator.
The Fund’s philosophy “Fund faces not masks” reflects Ira Oppenheimer’s rare capacity to discriminate between one and the other. He stood with rare determination and coherence for perhaps an old fashion view of philanthropy as a noble and ennobling activity; an activity that by definition will only be known by the achievements of the trusted.
President and Administrator
Peter L. Oppenheimer served as President of the American-Portuguese Biomedical Research Fund from 1985 to 2008. He was then Administrator of the Fund.
Peter was born in 1940 in New York City. In 1958 he entered the University of Chicago, receiving a B. A. in Philosophy. In 1962 he entered the graduate program in Philosphy at Stanford University. From 1963 to 1965 he served in the Peace Corps in Nyassaland (now Malawi) teaching mathematics in a government secondary school. In 1965 he returned to Stanford, finishing all requirements for a PhD in Philosophy except for the thesis.
From 1968 to 1971 he taught in the Philosophy Department at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In the 1970’s, he taught part-time in the Philosophy Department at the University of Pennsylvania.
Leaving academia, he worked in an antiquarian bookstore in Princeton, N. J., until his retirement in 2005.
Robert L. Williams, Jr., was affiliated with our Fund for over twenty-five years. He was President of The Williams Group, Certified Public Accountants, A Professional Corporation, which provided full accounting services to high net worth individuals and privately held corporations throughout the free world. He taught at the University of Oklahoma and has lectured world wide in the areas of financial quantitative methods and free enterprise. In addition, he provided knowledge and leadership to multiple not-for-profit organizations such as ours.
Some infamous philosopher once said that one has many acquaintances but few friends. Still another professed that a true friend is one that knows all about you and still likes you. The dynamics, causes and effects of an acquaintanceship becoming a friendship are multiple and outside the scope of this reflection. But, let it be said that if one can count true friends on more than one hand, they are indeed a blessed individual.
A long time ago (perhaps fifty years), an affluent American couple began spending their summers in Portugal and became acquainted with a young, struggling Portuguese scientist. Over time, that acquaintanceship grew into a strong friendship characterized with love, mutual respect and financial support for cancer research.
The scientist was a modest heir to their estate and the friendship grew exponentially through their surviving son who also was philanthropic, an admirer of the Portuguese culture, and intellectually curious about cancer research.
A small private U.S. foundation is the outgrowth of that friendship which has modestly financially assisted over one hundred international doctoral students. Three internationally known scientists are now active board members and the organization’s commitment to science has never been stronger.
I have had the distinct honor of serving as Treasurer for this organization for over twenty-five years and it is a highlight of my professional career. I deeply admire these talented people whom I am proud to call my friends!