History of the Mathers Family

G. Harold (1901 – 1976) and Leila Young Mathers (1905 – 1980) lived the final years of their lives in Santa Barbara, CA. The couple was known for their generosity and philanthropy, contributing to local causes such as St. Francis Hospital, to selected medical students to help complete their studies, and to numerous local community service programs. Having no immediate family, the Mathers wished that, after their deaths, their wealth be devoted to sustainable charitable causes. They decided to create the Foundation to further this philanthropic vision.

History of the Mathers Foundation

The G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Charitable Foundation was organized as a Texas non-profit corporation and obtained a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service granting it tax-exempt status as a section 501(c)(3) organization. The Foundation commenced its grant-making activities in Fall, 1982.

The Foundation was originally led by Bob Senkier, Ph.D., who had enjoyed a distinguished career in philanthropy and education, having served as Dean of Fordham Graduate School of Business. Alfred J. Bernstein, M.D., was also hired to assist the Foundation as a scientific and medical advisor, and helped identify the need for supporting basic scientific research. Drs. Senkier and Bernstein mentored their young protégé, James (Jim) Handelman, to organize and implement the structure and policies of the Mathers Foundation and to identify the area of focus for grant awards. The Board of Directors became quite impressed with Jim’s enthusiasm and achievements during those early years. After several years, Jim was appointed Executive Director of the Foundation and Bob remained with the Foundation in a part-time advisory capacity.

Under Jim’s leadership, the Foundation flourished and supported many innovative and noteworthy research projects across the United States, some that achieved international recognition. A partial listing of noteworthy grant awards supported by the Foundation appears on this website.  Eight investigators supported by the Foundation went on to become Nobel laureates, and countless others received accolades, such as the Lasker Award and The Kavli Award.  Jim led the Foundation for over 34 years and developed many strong, enduring relationships within the research community, often avoiding and minimizing recognition for his own personal achievements.  His stellar career was tragically cut short when was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2015; he passed on February 27, 2016.  He leaves a strong legacy of the quest for knowledge, and the understanding of the fundamental elements of life through basic scientific research.