Chapter Eternal: Developer and Philanthropist Don Chaiken ’58 – University of Florida
Donald Chaiken, a renowned philanthropist and real estate developer, passed into the Chapter Eternal on May 8, 2023.
He successfully grew his San Francisco area home-building business for decades and throughout his life Chaiken was always giving back. To support his industry, he established a free construction-trade training program through the California Homebuilding Foundation.
Chaiken was also known to be incredibly generous, establishing the Donald and Carole Chaiken Foundation which supported a variety of Jewish and non-sectarian charitable organizations locally and internationally.
Their foundation supported causes in the San Francisco area as well as Planned Parenthood, LGBTQ rights groups, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, ORT America and organizations that promote religious pluralism in Israel.
He never forgot his Pilam roots and was a generous supporter of the Pi Lambda Phi Foundation for years.
In his role as a philanthropist, he routinely met with leaders of nonprofits seeking grants. According to his daughter Julie, Chaiken would consider the request, and often say “no.” Then he’d add with a smile, “You didn’t ask for enough.”
Mentor and family man
Many considered Chaiken a valued mentor. Sandy Colen, who served with him on the Community Foundation of the East Bay said, “I was younger than almost anyone else on the board, so I was looking for guidance and direction. I looked around the room and it was clear Don was respected for his intellect, his practicality and deep commitment to philanthropy. When he spoke, everyone paid attention. He was a skilled negotiator and a consummate problem-solver.”
Don and his family loved to travel. They visited more than 100 countries and all seven continents. His daughter added, “he loved to gamble. “We joked that the family would take vacations, but only where there would be a casino.”