David Mugar, Philanthropist | Teen Ink

David Mugar, Philanthropist MAG

By Anonymous

   David Mugar isa successful entrepreneur and philanthropist living in Boston.The one-time owner of Star Market supermarkets, he is nowinvolved in many enterprises. His philanthropy is renowned buthe is best recognized for solely producing and fundingBoston's nationally known July 4th celebration.

Iinterviewed Mr. Mugar at his office, with its picturesque viewof downtown Boston.

You are associated withBoston's July 4th extravaganza. You are also involved in manyother projects. How did this giving nature evolve ?

Well, I guess it started with my dad and I have tried tocontinue that tradition. My father came to this country in1905 with his parents on a cattle boat from Armenia. They hadjust about nothing but the clothes on their backs. My fathertells a poignant story of Ellis Island and seeing the Statueof Liberty and crying. I don't know if it happened - he was only five years old. But he had an enormous appreciation forthis country. His family fled their home because the Turkswere massacring the Armenian people. My dad not only had thisappreciation, but also felt he owed a real debt to America foraccepting him and his family. He said many times that he feltthis was just as much of a debt as if he had signed a contractwith a bank.

So, during his lifetime, as he becamesuccessful financially, he was very philanthropic, donatingbuildings to Boston educational institutions. He gave toalmost every college in the greater Boston area, the so-called"subway" colleges, Suffolk, Northeastern, BostonUniversity, Tufts and MIT, to name a few. Dad felt verystrongly about education. These were some of the things wediscussed around the dinner table at our house growingup.

I guess Dad's philosophy rubbed off on me; I grewup with an appreciation for America. I inherited a good dealof my wealth and have been able to increase it. I think I feeljust as strongly as Dad in this giving-back philosophy, thoughI am probably not as education-orientated.

The July4th celebration I fell into by accident. The Esplanadeconcerts given by the Boston Pops had started to lose theirpopularity. In an effort to revive interest, I told conductorArthur Fiedler, "If you play the 1812 Overture (which Ithink is spectacular), I will get cannons, church bells and alarge fireworks show after the piece." It was supposed tobe a one-time event. That was 26 years ago! It has become aBoston tradition. I wondered many times whether my fatherwould approve of spending so much money each year on somethinglike this. But it has become a wonderful thing for a lot ofpeople. It is open to everyone. There is no VIP section. Thepoorest family from across the country or Boston can sit rightin the front row if they get there first. I love the spiritshown that day.

I know I had a good start in life and Isincerely hope I have used my wealth in a good way, advancingmy dad's philosophy as I continue to repay my dad's debt tothis country and this region.

Do you feel yourfamily would have felt the same way about America if they hadnot been so successful?

I think so. Dad said he felt heowed a debt to this country, long before he was successful inbusiness. I think he would have done something, even if hehadn't been financially successful.

Philanthropy hasdifferent forms. One usually thinks of it as a person simplywriting out a check, but I have the highest regard for thosewho give their time. Time is very valuable and to share itunselfishly with another is admirable. I used to help give outfood every month at a shelter. People who do those types ofthings are giving back to society. It's not always money thatis needed. Many times people are needed to help others. Thisdedication is a sacrifice. I salute and respect their giving.Programs like Big Brother/Big Sister (which helps kids who maybe without a mom or dad), Red Cross, United Way and many morewould not be able to function without people giving theirtime. Money alone would not do it. When people give their timeto these types of organizations, it is just as important asany check David Mugar might write. It takes both elements andothers to make these programs a success.

Irishimmigrants have a term, "narrow-back," whichdescribes a first-generation American as not having broadenough shoulders to do the things their father did. Do youfeel you could fill your father's?

No, I don't think Icould fill my father's shoes. If I had come to this countrywith his circumstances, I am not sure I could be assuccessful. In my own life, I have been lucky and successfulas an entrepreneur. I did have the advantage of my dad'ssuccess. You will never, ever, hear me say I am the man myfather was.

What type of advice did your fathergive you when you were growing up?

Very practicaladvice. My grandfather opened a little mom & pop grocerystore in 1915. My dad worked there before and after school.When my grandfather was in an automobile accident thatprevented him from working there, my father had to drop out ofschool and run the store. He turned that one store into theStar Market chain. He didn't plan to have a number of stores.In fact, he had always wanted to be an accountant, but he hadto leave school to run the store. That's why I think my fatherwas so attached to education.

What type ofadvice did your father give you when you were growingup?

I think one of the most important pieces of advicehe gave me was to persist. One of the most important featuresof success is your ability to stay with something, especiallyduring adverse times. If you feel you have an important idea,product or service and are willing to stick with it, moretimes than not you will be successful. There are ups and downsin business as well as life. As dismal as things look attimes, they do change.

What type of advice would you give today's teenager?

Well, you've got atough road ahead. As part of the information generation youare exposed to so much at an early age. Sometimes it isdifficult to digest it. You have enormous pressures, I think,more than other generations. Think of decisions you make ascoming to a crossroad. You have to make an informed decisionon what path to take. What is right? What is wrong? Whichdirection is my moral compass pointing? Hopefully you can relyon your education, experiences and upbringing to assist you inmaking the correct choice.

This may sound corny, butlisten to your parents. I mean really listen to them,especially for moral guidance. They are like umpires. Theyhave to make some tough calls and are not always right. No oneis. Another source of moral direction is organized religionand churches.

Stay close to your family. They willalways be there for you. Your friends might drop you in badtimes, but your family will always be there.

Read up on people you admire.See what crossroads they encountered in their lives and howthey made tough choices. You are going to have to make toughchoices - welcome to life. Realize you're going to be here fordecades and there will be crossroads along the way. Develop amoral compass now. Also, plan to give something back. This isa great country and we are fortunate to be here. But there arealways people who are not as fortunate as others. Always keepa charitable spot in your heart.

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i love this so much!