Iris Cantor

Iris Cantor
Iris Bazel

(1931-02-14) February 14, 1931 (age 88)
Occupationfashion model
stock broker
executive secretary
Spouse(s)Bernard Gerald Cantor (1977-1996)

Iris Cantor is a New York City and Los Angeles -based philanthropist, with a primary interest in medicine and the arts. Cited as among the 50 top contributors in the United States,[1] as head of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation,[2] her foundation has donated several hundred million dollars to museums, universities and hospitals since 1978.

Early life[edit]

Born Iris Bazel (February 14, 1931), the first daughter of Fay and Al Bazel, she grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York City. Her mother was originally from Pennsylvania and her father was a Jewish Russian immigrant. Her younger sister Enid was born three years later.[3]

Bernie Cantor[edit]

Iris, Messenger of the Gods by Auguste Rodin, bronze, modeled 1891, property of Iris Cantor

Drawn to Manhattan, she worked as a fashion model and stockbroker before eventually being hired by bond brokerage Cantor Fitzgerald around 1967, as an executive secretary.[4] In 1977, she married the firm's founder and majority owner, Bernard Gerald Cantor. It was her third marriage, and lasted nearly 20 years until his death in 1996.[5] By this time, "Bernie" Cantor had amassed a fortune said to exceed $500 million, receiving $50 million in annual dividends as of 1995.[4]

Subsequent to his business success, Mr. Cantor became a well regarded art collector, and most notably had acquired over 750 sculptures and drawings by Auguste Rodin, and many American and European masters' paintings.[5]

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation[edit]

In 1978, the year after their union, the Cantors founded the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation as a vehicle for their philanthropy.[5] In 1996, after acrimonious litigation with her husband's successor,[6] Mrs. Cantor sold her inherited 55% stake to the 170 limited partners of Cantor Fitzgerald, and the company agreed to additionally fund the foundation.[7]

Over the years, the foundation has donated approximately 450 Rodin pieces to museums around the world, with many going to New York's Metropolitan Museum and Brooklyn Museum, Stanford University and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[5]

In addition to the artworks, the foundation has financed numerous museum and university expansions:

Since 1995, she has been a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, as well as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and North Carolina Museum of Art among others.[13]

She has made additional donations to medical facilities and foundations:

  • UCLA Health System - Cantor established the Iris-Cantor - UCLA Women's Health Center in 1995. She has been involved with the UCLA Foundation since 1989, and has served as a Foundation Governor since 2005.[14]
  • NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell - donated the funds for eleven birthing rooms, two operating rooms, and a waiting rooms in 1996.[14] She donated $5 million in 2002 to form the Iris Cantor Women's Health Center, and $20 million in 2010, to launch the Iris Cantor Men's Health Center,[15] the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Ambulatory Surgery Center, and the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Laboratory for Immunological Research in Diabetes.
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center - funded a Senior Chair in 2007.[16]
  • David Geffen School of Medicine - donated $8 million to improve the school's women's health curriculum.[17]

Cantor has sat on the Board of Trustees of New York-Presbyterian Hospital since 1989.[18] Other board memberships include Exploring the Arts, and the Dean's Committee of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.[14]

Awards and other[edit]

Mrs. Cantor has received numerous awards and honorary degrees, including a National Medal of Arts awarded by President Clinton in 1995,[19] and the rank of Chevalier in the French National Order of the Legion of Honour in 2000, and Officer in 2017.[20][21]

In 2011, she sold the 34,000 square foot Bel-Air mansion that Bernie had built for her, for a reported $40 million.[22]


  1. ^ " - Philanthropy 50 of 2010".
  2. ^ a b "The Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2000, Great Dames of California".
  3. ^ " Abstract of 1940 US Census document".
  4. ^ a b Los Angeles Magazine, Jul 1998 p100-105 The Belle of Bel-Air.
  5. ^ a b c d "New York Times, July 06, 1996 - B. Gerald Cantor, Philanthropist and Owner of Rodin Collection, Is Dead at 79, By Eric Pace".
  6. ^ "New York Times, April 28, 1996 - With Partners Like These, Who Needs Rivals? by Diana Henriques".
  7. ^ "Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1996 - Cantor Fitzgerald Pact Puts an End to Infighting by The Associated Press Staff".
  8. ^ "New York Times, Dec 19, 1986 - The Evening Hours by Nadine Brozan".
  9. ^ " - The Cantor Gift to The Brooklyn Museum".
  10. ^ "New York Times, Mar 31, 1994 - The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford, By Nadine Brozan".
  11. ^ "New York University, Tisch School of the Arts website".
  12. ^ "Holy Cross website".
  13. ^ "Met Museum website, Board of Trustees in Annual Report" (PDF).
  14. ^ a b c "UCLA Website: Iris Cantor - UCLA Women's Health Center About Page".
  15. ^ "NewYork Presbyterian Hospital website".
  16. ^ "Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Press Release April 18, 2007".
  17. ^ "School of Medicine receives $10M grant to develop women's health treatment". Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  18. ^ "Hospital Leadership - Board of Trustees". New York Presbyterian. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  19. ^ "New York Times, Oct 06, 1995 By Nadine Brozan".
  20. ^ "College of the Holy Cross - Introduction of Iris Cantor at 2003 Commencement Address".
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Los Angeles Times, June 09, 2011 - Bel-Air mansion built for Iris Cantor sells for $40 million, By Lauren Beale".