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11/29/2010

Richard Goldman, who helped create Goldman Environmental Prize, dies at 90

November 29, 2010 |  1:16 pm

Richard Goldman, a San Francisco philanthropist who created the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize to reward grass-roots activism around the world, has died. He was 90.

Goldman died Monday morning at home in San Francisco. Amy Lyons, executive director of the foundation that awards the prize, said he died of natural causes.

Launched in 1989, the $150,000 Goldman Prize is informally dubbed the "Green Nobel." It's awarded annually to six people "who chose to take great personal risks to safeguard the environment."

The 2010 recipients included a public-interest attorney from Swaziland, a Polish activist who fought to protect a wilderness area from a highway development and a Costa Rican man whose work resulted in that country halting the practice of shark finning.

"While there are other prizes for environmental achievement, it is this focus on work done at the grass-roots level that sets the Goldman Prize apart," Goldman wrote previously in a letter posted on the prize's website.

"Goldman Prize recipients are proof that ordinary people are capable of doing truly extraordinary things."

Goldman and his late wife, Rhoda Haas Goldman, started the prizes after realizing the environmental world did not have a Nobel-like prize dedicated to honoring grass-roots environmental work.

The prize was not the beginning of the Goldmans' philanthropy. The couple created the Goldman Fund in 1951, which has given away nearly half a billion dollars since then.

Goldman was also heavily involved in funding Jewish educational and pro-Israel organizations. The fund gave more than $12.6 million to Jewish-affairs groups in 2010, according to its website.

"One of the most powerful things he did was ensure that his children and grandchildren care about the world," Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project, said in a statement.

"I am sure that his legacy will continue in their intelligence, compassion and commitment to the world."

In 1949, Goldman founded the insurance brokerage firm Goldman Insurance Services, which was sold to Willis Insurance in 2001.

He is survived by two sons, John and Douglas, daughter Susan and 11 grandchildren.

A funeral is scheduled for Friday in San Francisco.

-- Associated Press

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