"What makes America great? Risk, preparation, hard work, and a young man's willingness to shag carts from a parking lot because he has faith that he and his family can be great."
Bernard "Bernie" Marcus (born May 12, 1929) is an American businessman. He co-founded Home Depot and was the company's first CEO; he served as Chairman of the Board until retiring in 2002.
Bernard Marcus was born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents in Newark, New Jersey. He grew up in a tenement and graduated from South Side High School in 1947. Marcus wanted to become a Doctor but could not afford the tuition, so he worked for his Father as a cabinet maker enlist studying at Rutgers University for a pharmacy degree. While there he joined the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. He was also a brother of Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity.
Later, Marcus worked at a drugstore as a pharmacist but became more interested in the Retailing side of the Business. He worked at a cosmetics company and various other Retail jobs, eventually reaching a position as CEO of Handy Dan Improvement Centers, a Los Angeles-based chain of home improvement stores. In 1978 both he and Future Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank were fired during a corporate power struggle at Handy Dan. In 1979 they founded the home-improvement retailer The Home Depot, with the help of merchandising expert Pat Farrah and New York investment banker Ken Langone who assembled a group of Investors.
Marcus co-founded the Israel Democracy Institute in 1991, contributing $5 million for the construction of the institute’s building in Jerusalem’s Talbiya neighborhood and investing hundreds of millions of shekels in its ongoing operation over the years. He heavily contributed to the launch of the Georgia Aquarium, which opened in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, in 2005. Based mostly on the US$250M million donation for the Aquarium, Marcus and his wife, Billi, were listed among the top charitable donors in the country by The Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2005. Marcus also funded and founded The Marcus Institute, a center for the provision of services for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities. In May 2005, Marcus was awarded the Others Award by the Salvation Army, its highest honor. Marcus donated $25 million to Autism Speaks to spearhead its efforts to raise money for research on the causes and cure for autism. He is an active member of the board of Directors. Bernie and Billi Marcus are signatories of The Giving Pledge, a commitment to give away the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
The store revolutionized the home improvement Business with its warehouse concept. Blank, Marcus, and Langone became billionaires. Marcus served as the company's first CEO for 19 years and also served as chairman of the board until his retirement in 2002. Marcus was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2006.
Marcus is currently chairman of the Marcus Foundation, whose focuses include children, medical research, free enterprise, military veterans, Jewish causes and the community. Marcus is on the Board of Directors and an active volunteer for the Shepherd Center. His main focus is in providing care for war veterans with traumatic brain injuries. He was named a Georgia Trustee in 2009. The award is given by the Georgia Historical Society, in conjunction with the Governor of Georgia, to individuals whose accomplishments and community Service reflect the ideals of the founding body of Trustees, which governed the Georgia colony from 1732 to 1752. In 2012, Marcus was awarded the william E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership.
Marcus has opposed the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). He has also suggested that clients send donations to groups and Senate Republicans also against the EFCA. He views the legislation as hindrance to American capitalism, calling it "the demise of a civilization" and suggesting that any retailer who does not fight it "should be shot; should be thrown out of their goddamn jobs." Marcus has also been an opponent of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In 2015, Marcus donated $1.5 million to Super PACs supporting Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. On June 1, 2016, Bernard Marcus wrote: "I now stand in support of Donald Trump because the fate of this nation depends upon sending him, and not Hillary Clinton, to the White House."