Stewart J. Greenebaum, a prominent real estate developer, civic leader, philanthropist, and champion of Jewish and general causes, died on Dec. 10 of complications from a stroke. He was 81.
Though renowned for his business acumen and as founder of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Greenebaum, to those closest to him, will be remembered most for his compassion, quick wit and exceptional sense of humor.
“My father was larger than life,” said Michael Greenebaum, president of Greenebaum Enterprises. “He was renowned for his remarkable personality and sense of humor, which he had his whole life. Even after his stroke six years ago, he had that sense of humor, which is what helped him push through.”
A Baltimore native, Greenebaum grew up in the Forest Park neighborhood and graduated from Forest Park Senior High School. He attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania for a year before serving in the U.S. Army Reserve. After graduating from the University of Baltimore, Greenebaum married Marlene Goodman, whom he met on a blind date, more than 57 years ago. He then joined his family’s men’s clothing business.
But Greenebaum soon recognized that men’s clothing was not his calling.
“While on a buying trip to New York, [Greenebaum] sat next to an older man on the train who told him, ‘Everyone’s born with seven ounces of brains. What are you doing with yours?’” Temple Oheb Shalom Rabbi Steven M. FInk said in his eulogy for Greenebaum at his Dec 13 funeral. “This caused him to realize that he wanted to go in a very different direction. Not long after, some friends asked him if he wanted to be part of a group that would buy a parcel on Greenspring Avenue. Stewart borrowed $500 from his family and invested in the property.”
Greenebaum soon began his prosperous career in real estate. In 1979, he founded Greenebaum & Rose Associates, and his son, Michael, joined the company in 1987.
“Working for my father wasn’t always easy, but I received life lessons from my dad in how to deal with people and conduct myself,” said Michael Greenebaum. “I learned nuts and bolts of the real estate business and life lessons you can’t learn in any college or university.”
During his career, Greenebaum was responsible for developing thousands of acres of land, including the Maple Lawn community in Fulton, Md. in Howard County.
“Stewart may be best known as the visionary behind Maple Lawn, a 600-acre property which he developed as a traditional community, like the one in which he grew up, where people could walk to schools, shops and parks, children could play in their front yards, and residents could meet each other,” Rabbi Fink said.
While he was proud of his business accomplishments, Greenebaum was most proud of his ability to give back to the Baltimore community and the world, say his family, friends and associates. His lifelong passion was supporting cancer research and treatment.
In 1996, five years after Marlene Greenebaum was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stewart Greenebaum donated $10 million to the University of Maryland Medical System and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. It was the largest private donation either institution had ever received. Subsequently, the University of Maryland’s cancer center was renamed the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“He really wanted to leave the world a better place than when he came into it and helped multiple institutions whenever he was able to,” said Marlene Greenebaum. “He was just interested in helping humanity.”
“Stewart was such a gracious man and strongly committed to the mission of the cancer center,” says Dr. Kevin J. Cullen, director of the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center. “He leaves behind one of the top cancer centers in the country, which was a result of his vision and energy.”
Greenebaum also endowed the Greenebaum Compassion Award, which is given out to a staff member at the cancer center who exhibits extraordinary patient care.
“Stewart didn’t just donate money,” said Dr. Cullen. “He cared not only about the science that led to medical breakthroughs, but also about the staff taking wonderful care of the patients. He wanted to make sure patients were getting excellent and compassionate care at the center that bears his name.”
Greenebaum’s dedication to cancer research and education extended beyond the United States. He and his wife founded the Marlene Greenebaum Multidisciplinary Breast Center at Hadassah University Medical Center in Israel.
“He wanted Israelis to have the same kind of multi-disciplinary approach to cancer care in Israel that was available at his cancer center in Baltimore,” said Michael Greenebaum “He was a visionary thinker, not just in business but in the way he thought about the human condition.”
Greenebaum, who served as president of Temple Oheb Shalom, was also a great contributor to Baltimore’s Jewish community. He chaired The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore’s annual campaign in 1999, helped establish the federation’s Jewish Volunteer Connection, and was founding president of the Shoshana S. Cardin School in Pikesville.
“He was passionate about volunteerism, Jewish education and was a leader in advancing people’s connection to Jewish values and Jewish life,” said Marc B. Terrill, president and CEO of The Associated. “In some respects, he was very much a man of contrasts. He could be tough yet warm-hearted, impatient yet nurturing, but the sum of the man was he was a caring person who was proud of his connection to Jewish life and Jewish values.”
Said Leslie K. Pomerantz, who worked with Greenebaum to establish JVC and serves as the chief development officer at The Associated: “I feel so fortunate I had someone like Stewart to help us imagine and build what today has had a huge impact on our community in terms of engaging people and helping them become stakeholders in building a strong community. He played a big role in creating that.”
Additionally, Greenebaum helped create a volunteer agenda in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city in Israel, through The Associated’s Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership. Ashkelon’s volunteer center, which was founded in 2011, is named for Stewart and Marlene Greenebaum.
While Greenebaum leaves behind an impressive legacy in business and charitable work, for his family it was his love of practical jokes that will leave them laughing for years to come.
“When I was bar mitzvahed, I sent an invitation to the White House,” recalled Michael Greenebaum. “Back then, the president would send a letter back declining the invitation and I thought it would be cool to have a letter from Jimmy Carter saying he couldn’t attend my bar mitzvah at Temple Oheb Shalom. But my dad had other plans. He had a friend call my mom and tell her the president was going to come. For weeks, she believed former President Jimmy Carter was coming to my bar mitzvah. I finally had to tell her it was a joke. That was one of the greatest practical jokes he played.
“I’m grateful I had so much time with my father,” said Michael Greenebaum. “He loved to travel,and we took some incredible trips as a family. I’m glad my dad could share that with my children.”
In addition to his wife and son, Greenebaum is survived by his daughter, Amy Burwen, and son-in-law, Steve Burwen; his daughter-in-law, Adele Greenebaum; his brother, Edwin Greenebaum; his sisters-in-law, Ingrid and Barbara Greenbaum; and three grandchildren, Robert Greenebaum (fiancee Amy Rifkin), Heather Greenebaum, Samantha Greenebaum.
Contributions in his memory may be sent to the University of Maryland, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, 110 S. Paca Street, Baltimore, MD 21201.
Aliza Friedlander is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
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