Melvin Gordon, longtime CEO of Chicago-based Tootsie Roll Industries, died this week at the age of 95. He ran the candy maker for more than 50 years and never technically retired, becoming the oldest serving CEO of any business listed on either US stock exchange.
Gordon and his wife, Ellen, were also longtime supporters of scientific research at the University of Chicago. In 2006, they donated $25 million toward the construction of what is now known as the Ellen and Melvin Gordon Center for Integrative Science. The Gordon Center, located at 929 E. 57th St. on campus, is known for its beautiful atrium and bridge that straddles the northern entrance to the science quad. It brings together faculty and research from the Biological and Physical Sciences, and prestigious research institutes including the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the James Franck Institute, and the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics.
At the time of the gift, Ellen Gordon said, “We all dream of a day when there is less suffering and pain in the world. Thanks to institutions like the University of Chicago we have made enormous progress toward that day, but there is still much more to do. In business, Melvin and I look for the best return on our investment. In philanthropy, we also look for the best return and are therefore pleased to be a part of this wondrous collaborative research that can make life better for many people.”
“There is such visionary leadership, and the scientific track record is so extraordinary,” she continued. “They have made so many important discoveries. The payback will be great as the promise of a greater—and sweeter—future becomes a reality for so many.”
In 2008, the Gordons were named Honorary Fellows of the Division of Biological Sciences. Students, faculty, staff and visitors will remember their contributions as they pass through the lobbies of the Gordon Center, which to this day are stocked with bowls of a never-ending supply of Tootsie Roll products.