MANATEE -- Sarasota philanthropist Harry Leopold believes that anyone can -- and, perhaps, should -- experience the satisfaction and joy from an act of giving.
A supporter of local arts, culture and social-service agencies, Leopold knows the initial reaction often is: "Oh, I can't do that. I'm not rich."
But the 71-year-old, who attended Drexel University in Philadelphia and who became a successful investment banker in the Philadelphia area, says giving can be accomplished on a modest scale with the same rewards to the giver.
"I know people in Bradenton and Sarasota who write $25 checks and feel good about it," Leopold said. "I also know a guy who has a truck and picks up things for Girls Inc. That's his way of donating -- and he is a gen
Leopold has created a five-part lecture and social series about philanthropy in partnership with the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and the Lifelong Learning Academy.
Called "Discover the Joy of Giving," the series will be in Selby Auditorium on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus on Jan. 12 and Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, Feb. 9 and Feb. 16.
The sessions run from 3-5 p.m. and the cost of the course is $100. It includes materials and five catered cocktail receptions at the Powel Crosley Estate adjacent to the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
Individuals of all ages from all walks of life are invited to participate and meet others who wish to learn about the relationship between giving, happiness and health, said Kelley Lavin, who will moderate the series.
"All proceeds will benefit the Lifelong Learning Academy," said Leopold, who also attends the academy.
Leopold said he came to America at age 8 from Holland.
"We were tenant farmers in south Jersey," Leopold said. "We lived on someone else's chicken farm."
The Leopold family eventually purchased a small farm in Vineland, N.J., and the house had one upstairs bathroom for seven people. Leopold's father, Hugo, and mother, Franciska, worked many jobs. His mother worked the farm, in a garment factory and at Sears, Roebuck & Co.
The seed for his lifetime of giving was planted when Leopold was in his late 20s, and he was able to build a bathroom on the ground floor of the family home. His father, a cancer survivor, found it difficult to climb stairs.
"My father came home from a trip, and when he saw the bathroom, he cried," Leopold said. "The feelings it created in me were so strong that whatever benefits he got out of it, I got many times more. That's the moment I discovered that giving is as important as anything we do in life."
Of three uncles -- one a businessman, one a scholar and one a gambler -- Leopold said he inherited the talents of the first.
He formed his own investment firm in 1988, which helped small, publicly traded companies raise capital. Among those companies was Universal Display Corp., which had the idea for what it called an "organic light emitting device" decades before LEDs (or light-emitting diodes) would become integral in television sets.
"I remember meeting with them at Princeton University," Leopold said. "When we came across them, they were a $150 million company. Now they are a $1.25 billion company. They would not have survived had we not introduced them to capital."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.