MORRIS L. BENATAR GATE HONORS ALUMNUS’ SON
Louise and Leo Benatar, IE 1951, MBA 2016, have made a naming gift to Georgia Tech in honor of their son, who died unexpectedly in 2016 at the age of 58.
Starting this fall, the North Avenue entrance to the west stands of Bobby Dodd Stadium will bear the name of Morris L. Benatar, a Yellow Jackets football fan from the tender and terrible age of two, according to his family. Morris is also remembered for his love of community and family, including his wife, Diane, and two children; his Jewish faith; his concern for others; and his affection for dogs. Morris earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and his MBA from the University of Virginia. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Epsilon Pi.
In addition to funding the gate and providing $1 million in unrestricted support for Georgia Tech Athletics through the Alexander-Tharpe Fund, $250,000 has been designated for the Leo and Louise Benatar Endowment for the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, which was originally established in 1998.
“Georgia Tech has been a special place in our lives,” Benatar says. “I enrolled in 1947 and couldn’t afford to live in a dorm — with the assistance of Dean George Griffin and Fred Ajax, jobs were found for me to help pay my tuition and books, mostly used. The gifts we have made during the years are but a small acknowledgement of my debt to Tech.”
Georgia Tech basketball fans might recognize the name “Benatar” from the east entrance of McCamish Pavilion, which bears the couple’s name. Louise and Leo are members of the Hill Society, Georgia Tech’s most prestigious giving society, and Leo has served on the ISyE Advisory Board as well as the Georgia Tech Foundation Board.
FINISHING WHAT HE STARTED – 59 YEARS LATER
When Leo Benatar, IE 1951, MBA 2016, began his graduate studies, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President and Elvis Presley was starting his musical career. It was 1954, and Benatar had returned to Georgia Tech after a stint in the Navy. He completed all the coursework for a master’s by 1957 and was preparing his thesis defense. At this point, the first of many obstacles came between Benatar and his degree: his thesis advisor left the Institute, and Georgia Tech was unable to find someone with the requisite knowledge of Benatar’s thesis topic to hear his defense.
Benatar continued taking classes and waited. The next year, a qualified replacement advisor had still not been found, so Benatar opted to leave Tech to begin his career. The lack of a master’s didn’t hinder Benatar’s career success. He is a former chairman of The Federal Reserve (6th District, Atlanta); a principal of Benatar & Associates; and currently serves on the board of Aaron’s Inc. He retired in 1996 as chairman of the board of Engraph Inc., a $500 million manufacturing company.
Despite his impressive career success, Benatar still wanted the sense of fulfillment that finally receiving his master’s would provide. “I’d done the work and gone to the classes — I’m the type of person who wants to complete everything that I start,” Benatar said. A few years after he left Tech, Benatar learned the Institute had dropped the thesis requirement for his degree. He made inquiries about finally receiving the degree, but those requests fell through the cracks. Every so often after that, Benatar would check in and ask. Finally, Benatar mentioned it to Edwin Romeijn, current chair of the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, and the obstacles began to fall away. Benatar got the word that he would officially walk with the Class of 2016.
“Psychologically, it’s a tremendous feeling for me,” Benatar said. “Completing this gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction.” The east entrance of McCamish Pavilion, the graduation site, is named for Benatar and his wife, Louise, in honor of their tremendous generosity to the Institute.