many graduates of predominantly commuter universities, Lewis Katz lost touch
with his alma mater. But as is probably true for many Temple alumni, the
University continued to exert an influence on his life.
“I thought I was going to be a doctor or a comedian,” said the man who owns
professional basketball’s New Jersey Nets and professional hockey’s New
Jersey Devils and has an ownership interest in the New York Yankees and its
television network. “My life has been like a good run at the tables, and it
all started at Temple. I got more out of extracurricular activities at
Temple than anybody I know.”
Those activities included a speaker series Katz organized with classmate
Bill Cosby. One of the guest speakers was renowned journalist Drew Pearson,
for whom Katz later served as an editorial assistant before graduating first
in his class at Dickinson Law School. Katz also was a student government
leader while earning his bachelor’s degree in business from Temple, which
inspired his interest in law and politics.
Katz owned Kinney System Holding Corp., a major national parking company. In
addition, he was the principal shareholder in First Peoples Bank of New
Jersey and Cherry Hill National Bank. He is a philanthropic leader in his
native Camden, N.J.
A “good run at the tables” indeed, even though “most people say I wasn’t
really as good a student as I should have been,” Katz admitted. “But there
are many ways to learn, and Temple afforded me that opportunity. It was from
my extracurricular activities that I developed a sense of self-assurance and
In 1998 he joined the Board of Trustees at the urging of classmate Cosby,
President Peter J. Liacouras and friend Howard Gittis. He had not been back
to Temple in three decades.
“The change was amazing,” Katz said. “Temple really has a campus atmosphere
now. Each year admission gets more competitive, we’re maintaining our
diversity and we haven’t forgotten our working-class roots.”
Katz serves as chairman of the board’s athletics committee, appropriate for
someone who sees tremendous value in extracurricular activities.
“Athletics are so important for the culture of a college. Sports help
students and alumni feel a connection with their school. I guarantee you
that our high-profile basketball program makes more alumni feel connected to
“For the student-athlete, it’s a wonderful experience,” Katz added. “First,
it’s something that stays with you the rest of your life. Second, anybody
who participates in any extracurricular activity improves their education.
It puts them in touch with other people on their own campus and gives them
the opportunity to travel to other campuses and meet other students.”
Now reconnected with his alma mater, Katz’s contributions to the University
have been so extraordinary that in April, he received the Alumni
Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor Temple gives to its
graduates—even those who once upon a time lost touch with the Cherry and
© 2004 Temple Times