Lewis Katz

Like 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 confidence.”

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 Temple.

“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 White.

-Mark Eyerly

2004 Temple Times