Arthur Lazere, one of Horizons Foundation’s co-founders, passed away in 2006, but his legacy lives on – both in the historical significance of the foundation’s work, the many people whose lives he touched, and in a generous bequest he left to help ensure our community’s future.
From New York to San Francisco
Born and raised in New York City, Arthur graduated from the University of Michigan, received an MBA from Columbia University, and served in the US Army. Professionally, he worked as a CPA and taught accounting at Fordham University, Brooklyn College, and Columbia University. According to his nephew, Jeffrey Reichwald, the practice of accounting was primarily “a means to an end” for Arthur, allowing him to focus on his passion for the arts and on giving back to the community. He opened his own accounting firm in San Francisco in 1977 and added freelance journalism to his activities in the early 1980s.
A life of leadership and activism
When Arthur became president of the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA) in 1979, he “brought it screaming out of the closet,” as he put it, and helped it grow tremendously. During his tenure, he also recognized that members of the GGBA had resources that could benefit nonprofits in the nascent LGBT community. He saw the value not only of helping the organizations financially, and saw that having our own foundation would focus LGBT dollars on LGBT needs. In 1980, the GGBA’s philanthropic committee formally became the GGBA Foundation, which was later renamed Horizons Foundation. Roger Gross, who worked together with Arthur to establish the GGBA Foundation and served as the first board president, felt personally inspired by Arthur, particularly around leadership. “I learned what it means to be a leader from Arthur – what they do and how they do it. He taught me that leaders groom other leaders to be successors.”
Arthur also played a key role as an advocate for LGBT interests with non-LGBT sources of funding. He was especially frustrated that the LGBT community received neither acknowledgment nor funding at that time from the United Way. In 1981, Arthur became the first openly gay board member of the Bay Area United Way, wherehis outspokenness pushed the United Way to fund more LGBT organizations and address the needs of the LGBT community. “He did not find it acceptable to be discriminated against,” noted Gross. The media attention surrounding Arthur’s involvement with the United Way Board of Trustees also became the catalyst for his coming out to his family. “It was a big relief for him afterwards,” said Reichwald.
A lover – and a critic – of the arts
Later in his life, Arthur was devoted to CultureVulture.net, a web-based arts and entertainment site he created and for which he served as publisher and editor (and which continues today). He loved the arts – especially the opera, theater, and film – and was a member of the Online Film Critics Society, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, and the International Association of Art Critics. His work as a reviewer fit for a man who didn’t shy from sharing his opinions. “You always knew where you stood with Arthur,” laughed Reichwald. Gross agreed. “Arthur was wonderfully intense, sometimes edgy, and charismatic all at the same time. He had no hesitation about telling you what he thought.”
Arthur’s dedication to the LGBT community will continue for years to come. Through the bequest he left to Horizons Foundation, we established the Arthur Lazere Fund of the LGBT Community Endowment Fund. According to Arthur’s wishes, the income from this fund is fully unrestricted, giving the foundation the flexibility to use it for the most pressing needs at any time. Such gifts are enormously helpful to our work and demonstrate a profound trust in Horizons’ ability to be a long-term resource for the LGBT community.
His legacy reflects the focus and goals he brought to his life. “The driving theme in all of Arthur’s work was his ability to give voice to the LGBT community,” Reichwald noted. “When Art Agnos spoke at the memorial service, I really understood the power of Arthur’s commitment. He was key in crystallizing the LGBT community’s presence here.”
“Arthur was such a force,” said Gross. “He was bigger than life.”