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Dr. Mark Hasten, Philanthropist, Businessman and Touro College Chairman, Dies at 92

New York Medical College and Touro College and University System (TCUS) mourn the loss of Dr. Mark Hasten, chairman of the board. Dr. Hasten passed away on February 28, in Indianapolis. He was 92 years old.

March 02, 2020
Dr. Mark Hasten
Dr. Mark Hasten

Fighting for Jewish Survival on all Fronts

Hasten was born in Bohorodczany, Poland, in 1927. He and his family survived WWII in Kazakhstan, where he entered the military. The young Hasten fought with the Polish Brigade of the Red Army against the Nazis on the Eastern Front during World War II and participated in the liberation of the Majdanek Concentration Camp in Poland. In a displaced persons camp, he joined the Irgun Tzvai Leumi and was aboard the Altalena, the famous ship, which was sunk by order of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Hasten joined the Israel Defense Forces in 1948, and participated for two years in Israel’s War of Independence.

From Southern Methodist University to General Mills and First National Bank

In 1952, Dr. Hasten married Anna Ruth Robinson and they emigrated to the United States in 1953. Hasten’s education had been suspended at age 12 by WWII and he realized he needed training in order to advance professionally. He enrolled at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and in 1959, earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in mechanical engineering. He then spent nine years working for General Mills in Minneapolis, first in research, then as chief design engineer for corporate engineering. While there, Hasten invented and designed the products and machines that produced the bendable straw, Cheerios, Pringles and Bugles.  In 1967, Hasten was invited by his younger brother, Hart, to join his healthcare business in Indianapolis. Hasten insisted that the company be Sabbath-observant. As the business grew, they worked closely with banks to raise capital. Eventually, they decided they would rather finance their projects themselves and they acquired a total of 36 banks under the First National Bank and Trust name. They divested their bank holdings in 2007.

The brothers worked together for 40 years and were partners in both business and community service. With no Jewish day school in Indianapolis, they decided to create one. The Hasten Hebrew Academy began with 13 children and its roster now numbers more than 150. The school produced numerous illustrious graduates who are engaged in full Jewish lives.

Visionary Leadership for Touro

Always passionate about education and especially interested in higher education that offered a Jewish environment, Hasten joined the board of Touro College in 1977 and became chairman in 1995. He and Touro founder, Dr. Bernard Lander, were extremely close, sharing a vision for building from the ground up.

“My father had that wonderful blend of being a visionary and a person with the courage to pursue those goals,” said Rabbi Michael Hasten, noted educator. “He really envisioned how Touro could be an all-encompassing dominant force in many fields of education and he realized that vision in his lifetime, while also creating a great opportunity for a young Jewish man or woman to gain their academic training necessary to pursue their careers of choice.”

“We have lost more than the crown of our head,” said Alan Kadish, M.D., president, Touro College and University System, at a funeral held Sunday at Touro’s Lander College for Men-Beis Medrash L’Talmud. “Dr. Hasten was like a brother to Touro founder, Dr. Bernard Lander and he was my mentor and father. He spoke to our students often of the four P’s necessary for success – patience, persistence, positivity and perseverance and he exemplified all those traits. His perseverance to accomplish goals in his personal and professional life came along with a certain toughness.  He led an amazing life and his brand of toughness enabled him to get important things done. He was tough when he fought the Nazis, liberated Majdanek, fought for Israel’s independence and talked his way into engineering school at Southern Methodist University when he could barely speak English. He brought that perseverance and toughness to his role at Touro and he led us through a tremendous period of growth. His toughness was always tempered with kindness, humility and a collaborative spirit. He was a leader in business, government and education and always remained approachable, humble, warm and engaging.” 

According to Rabbi Moshe Krupka, executive vice president, Touro College and University System,Mark Hasten is a hero for the Jewish people, the State of Israel and higher education. He is the hero of people of good faith who wish to achieve on behalf of others,” said Rabbi Moshe Krupka. “Touro exists to prepare our students to set and achieve goals, and then keep striving in their lives to be successful in their career and personal lives. Dr. Hasten saw what he created at Touro as incredible vengeance against Hitler and the anti-Semites he encountered early on in his life. He led Touro with tenacity and a force of personality that was unmatched.” 

A Heart in Every One of His Organs

Rabbi Michael Hasten recounted the words of the family’s rabbi in Minneapolis who said, “your father had a heart in every one of his organs, he gave money to Jewish causes when he had money and when he didn’t have money.” Hasten said, “My father had incredible gratitude to Hashem for saving his early on. After he was saved, my father was literally everywhere in Jewish history over the course of his life. The only thing he missed was Mashiach. Just a short while ago, he said to me ‘if we could just bring Mashiach now, I’d be the engineer to build the third Beit Hamikdash…’”

Dr. Mark Hasten truly lived a remarkable life and he always expressed gratitude for the opportunities he was granted. Looking back at his life  a few years ago, Hasten said, “I saw Gehinnom and lived Gan Eden…I’ve worked my entire life to create success for Yiddishkeit-Judaism and for those around me and as a lifelong inventor and creator, I believe success is the mother of invention.”

Hasten is survived by his wife, Mrs. Anna Ruth Hasten; his daughters Judy Kaye and Monica Hasten; sons Edward Hasten and Rabbi Michael Hasten; and his brother Hart Hasten.