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Arthur Samberg, philanthropist and MIT Corporation life member, dies at 79

Alumnus and Pequot Capital founder had a long and varied association with the Institute.
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Arthur “Art” Samberg ’62
Arthur “Art” Samberg ’62

Arthur “Art” Samberg ’62, a pioneer in investment management and longtime member of the MIT Corporation, died of leukemia on July 14. He was 79.

Reflecting his wide-ranging interests at MIT, Samberg served on the executive committee of the MIT Corporation and on visiting committees for the departments of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Mathematics, and Nuclear Science and Engineering. He also served on the School of Science Dean’s Advisory Council, the MIT Energy Initiative External Advisory Board, and the MIT Investment Management Company Board. Samberg joined the Corporation in 2003.

He and his wife Rebecca Samberg established a scholarship fund that has supported more than 200 MIT scholars since its inception, many throughout their MIT undergraduate careers. A gift from the couple also enabled a new conference facility at MIT, the Samberg Conference Center.

"Art Samberg would often say with pride that his life was transformed by MIT — so it is wonderfully fitting that he and Becky made possible the same transformative experience for so many young people with limited means but with all the talent to succeed here,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “Through the countless roles he took on in service to the Institute, MIT also benefited from his brilliant insight, wide-ranging curiosity, decisiveness, and extraordinary personal dedication. Every time we enjoy the exhilarating view from the Samberg Conference Center, we can take inspiration from Art’s warmth, playfulness, down-to-earth attitude, and open-hearted generosity. We miss him!”

At the time the conference center was opened, Samberg said of MIT: “I have a tremendous and personal appreciation for what this place can do. Becky and I are delighted to be active members of the MIT community and to support key priorities that help keep the Institute strong.”

Samberg was also a member of the Campaign Leadership Council, which assists MIT with high-level fundraising, and he served as co-chair of the Campaign for a Better World. 

Robert Millard, chair of the MIT Corporation, says Samberg’s contribution to MIT will be felt for years to come.

“Art had extraordinary success in life and was constantly engaging with and giving back to his community. MIT was extremely lucky to receive his help in so many different ways,” Millard says. “We will miss him personally, but his impact on the Institute will continue. He embodied a precious combination of wisdom, generosity, and humility. His passing leaves many of us with a void. It is people like Art who have built and fortified the foundations of MIT’s greatness.”

Samberg was born in the Bronx, New York, living there until he was 8, when his family moved to Tenafly, New Jersey. A top student in math and science at Tenafly High School, he chose to study at MIT, earning a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering.

“He cherished his time in Cambridge, and cultivated lifelong friendships,” said his son Joe Samberg in a eulogy at Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester in New York.

Samberg then earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering at Stanford University — where he met another graduate student on a blind date, Becky, who would become his wife. After landing a job developing guidance and control technologies for missile systems at Lockheed Martin, Samberg decided his true calling was finance, earned an MBA at Columbia University, and took a job as an equity analyst at Kidder-Peabody.

Later, while at money-management firm Dawson-Samberg Capital Management Inc., he launched his own fund, which became Pequot Capital. Fifteen years after that, in 2001, Pequot was reported to be the largest hedge fund in the world, managing more than $15 billion. 

“My success in life is taking decent expertise in technology and combining it with finance,” said Samberg in a 2015 Bloomberg Radio interview, “and trying to apply those two things to help companies aggregate capital and grow and create jobs. I care about solving the world’s problems.”

For all his seriousness about business, Samberg had an equally strong passion for engaging with people.

“What made Dad especially proud was the fun-loving, team-oriented culture he fostered” at Pequot, said Joe Samberg, explaining that his father installed a basketball court at the firm that was located between the trading floor and the company’s marketing group.

Written tributes from two of Samberg’s fellow members of the MIT Corporation spoke of his humility and his humor.

Bob Johnson ’63, life member emeritus of the Corporation, said he worked with Samberg at Kidder Peabody, lost touch with him for over two decades, and then served on the MIT Corporation with Samberg for many years.

“It was just chance that I got to work with Art at the beginning of our careers,” Johnson said. “Fifty-plus years later, in spite of his amazing successes, he was the still the same wonderful human being.”

Lawrence Fish, also an MIT Corporation life member emeritus, said, “He had a delightful sense of humor. He never took himself too seriously.”

Samberg’s son Jeff Samberg said his father believed in people’s ability to achieve if given the opportunity, and many came forward in the past few months to express gratitude for his mentorship. Because Samberg loved innovation, he was often thrilled by the ideas of entrepreneurs who would pitch to the family investment business he started in 2009. The projects taken on by the firm often had lofty aims, such as reversing climate change or curing cancer.

Samberg made major philanthropic donations to other organizations ranging from Columbia Business School to New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. His daughter, Laura Samberg Faino, oversees the work of the Samberg Family Foundation, established by Art and Becky to support various health, education, and Jewish causes in the New York area and nationally.

“Dad truly left the world a better place than he found it,” said Jeff Samberg.

Donations in Samberg’s memory may be made to Jacob Burns Film Center, Ossining Children’s Center, or Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester.

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