Philanthropist Stephen Grand has passed away at 77. (Photo/Courtesy Family House)
Philanthropist Stephen Grand has passed away at 77. (Photo/Courtesy Family House)

Bay Area philanthropist Stephen Grand, 77, ‘made every day count’

Stephen Grand was well known as a prodigious philanthropist, supporting a variety of Jewish causes and medical-scientific institutions. For those who knew him, he was even better known as a man of infallible warmth, wit and kindness. He was, above all things, a mensch.

Grand died on March 21 in his Marin County home after a long battle with cancer. He was 77.

“Steve Grand made every day count,” said Danny Grossman, CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, which was a beneficiary of Grand’s largesse. “He woke up every day with insatiable curiosity, devilish humor and generous care for the people and community around him. In ways small and grand, he left an indelible and important mark on everyone he touched.”

Stephen and his wife, Nancy, were indeed very active and generous givers. In 2014, the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked the Grands 31st in giving in the United States.

Much of the couple’s philanthropy went to medical research in the United States and Israel.

“Medical science is on the threshold of major breakthroughs,” Grand told J. at the time. “Our recently developed ability to read the human genome and identify errors in its composition will enable us to understand diseases and how to fix them. At this point, all it takes are brilliant scientists, infrastructure and financial backing.”

When UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital announced a move to San Francisco’s Mission Bay in 2016, the Belvedere couple funded the 80-bedroom Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House, which provides free lodging for the families of seriously ill young patients.

Nancy and Stephen Grand. (Photo/Courtesy Family House)
Nancy and Stephen Grand. (Photo/Courtesy Family House)

The couple’s support of the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa spanned decades, and included the Nancy and Stephen Grand Technion Energy Program and the Stephen and Nancy Grand Water Research Institute. Grand also was a member of the Technion board of governors, and a former member of the American Technion Society board of directors. In addition, in 2013 they gave the lead donation to Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science to launch the National Center for Personalized Medicine.

“These universities and institutions in Israel just caught his eye and caught his heart,” Nancy Grand said. “He felt like he was helping the country by helping these institutions.”

Stephen Grand grew up in Detroit in an ardently Zionist household. His father, Sam Grand, started Deco-Grand, a machining company that made precision automotive components and assemblies for diesel engines.

After earning a master’s in engineering from the University of Michigan, Stephen spent a year in Israel before going on to serve as president of Deco-Grand. Around that time, he  met a young math teacher at a Detroit Jewish Federation function. Some six years later, the couple sealed in marriage what turned out to be a lifelong love affair.

“It was the twinkle in his eye,” Nancy Grand said of their early spark. “He had a great sense of humor and we laughed for 41 years.”

In 1990, Grand expanded into real estate, serving as president and partner of Grand/Sakwa Properties, a major developer of residential and retail properties. Its success in the Midwest became the source for much of the Grands’ future philanthropy.

In 2003, the couple moved to the Bay Area, where their dedication to the local Jewish community continued. Though the two worked as a team in their philanthropic decision-making, Nancy, who later served as president of the Federation, noted that her husband sometimes went on his own.

“He liked to give money away,” she said. “He was so proud of what he did with what he got.”

Though he faced health issues in his later years, he continued to focus on the good he could do with his resources.

As Grand told J. in 2014, given his good fortune, “We believe it is our responsibility to use that blessing to do good things for others and the world. Anything else would be irresponsible, foolish or selfish.”

Stephen Grand is survived by his wife, Nancy Grand of Belvedere; stepson Russ Maddin of Traverse City, Michigan; stepdaughter Lauren Gaver of Santa Monica; sisters Diana Grand (Jon Holman) and Betsy Marcus; niece Marsea Marcus-Rotman (Evan Marcus-Rotman); nephews William Marcus (Pamela Marcus) and Jeremy Karp (Andrea Fineman); and three grandchildren.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.