Guilford Glazer, the developer of the Del Amo Fashion Center and a philanthropist who funded Jewish studies programs at schools including Pepperdine University and Nanjing University in China, has died. He was 93.
Glazer’s death at his Beverly Hills home Dec. 23 was announced by American Friends of Tel Aviv University, where Glazer co-founded the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies and the Institute for National Security Studies. No cause was disclosed.
Glazer was an active supporter of Israel for decades. In the early 1950s, he escorted political leaders of the new state when they came to his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., to tour the Tennessee Valley Authority’s massive complex of dams and power plants. The delegation included Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, future Prime Minister Golda Meir and Teddy Kollek, a future mayor of Jerusalem.
“He established an ongoing relationship with these people and became a go-to person for many heads of state,” said John Fishel, a friend of Glazer’s and a former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
A soft-spoken man with traces of a Southern accent, Glazer sometimes worked on Jewish causes behind the scenes. Involved with the resettlement of Soviet Jewish refugees in the 1980s, he was asked by Israeli officials to secure from the Soviets a Gestapo ID that would be crucial in the trial of “Ivan the Terrible” — the Nazi concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk. In a 1987 letter to the New York Times, Glazer said he found the document with the help of his well-connected friend, Dr. Armand Hammer, the Los Angeles oilman.
After up-and-down legal proceedings over more than 20 years, Demjanjuk was convicted in 2011 of complicity in the deaths of more than 28,000 prisoners.
In 2005, Glazer helped fund a $3-million Rand Corp. study on how to bring economic viability to an independent Palestine.
“My father used to tell me that a man with nothing to lose is very dangerous,” Glazer told the Jewish Journal. “We need in our self-defense to make sure they have something.”
The son of immigrants, Glazer was born in Knoxville on July 17, 1921. He attended George Washington University and the University of Louisville before enlisting in the Navy during World War II.
When he returned from active duty as a shipbuilder, his family was in financial trouble. His father had died in 1939, and the family’s scrap yard and welding business struggled. With other family members, Glazer built it into the Glazer Steel Corp., a firm that did steel fabrication on bridges and other structures throughout the world.
Glazer developed a high-rise in Knoxville and a shopping center in Oak Ridge, Tenn., before moving to Southern California and its more vibrant business climate.
In 1971, he opened the Del Amo Fashion Square mall in Torrance, which morphed into the 3-million-square-foot Del Amo Fashion Center 10 years later. Del Amo was said to be the largest U.S. shopping mall before Minnesota’s Mall of America opened in 1992.
Glazer also developed apartment complexes and shopping centers around the country and appeared on Forbes magazine’s list of the 400 richest Americans.
He retired in 1996 and sold his interest in Del Amo in 2002.
In his later years, Glazer devoted himself to his philanthropy. With his wife, Diane Pregerson Glazer, he donated to the business school at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. When they met a Chinese scholar who was passionate about teaching Judaism, they opened the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute of Jewish Studies in Nanjing.
In 2008, they opened the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute of Jewish Studies at Pepperdine, a university associated with the Churches of Christ.
Growing up as one of the relatively few Jews in Bible Belt Tennessee, Glazer felt it was particularly important to convey a sense of Jewish heritage to non-Jews, Fishel said.
In addition to Diane, his wife of 47 years, Glazer’s survivors include his daughter Erika and son Emerson.