INSIDE THE MAGBIT FOUNDATION
The Weekly’s interview with founder Parviz Nazarian
By Andrea Aldana
The Magbit Foundation of Greater Los Angeles was established in 1990 to promote education. The foundation provides interest-free loans for needy and qualified students. The Weekly sat down with Nazarian and his daughter, Dora Kadisha, who is also a member of the Magbit Board.
How did you get involved with the Magbit Foundation?
Parviz: Magbit was a good plan for getting donations from people and providing to the students who didn’t have enough financing money to study in University. After I finished the army, I decided to go to Technion to study, but my mother was there and my brother was there. I left them and I [went] to Technion, I found it was not the way to leave them alone, and I [went] to the university, but I don’t have enough money to get my day by day expenses. Then, I said I’m going to leave the university and go into a job or business, making money to support my mother and my brother. It was a good decision at that time and I started to work in Israel and become very successful and I said, if I have a chance to work and make money, many other children in the Iranian country need this idea. As a matter of fact, it works very well because the organization, which we have here, Magbit, I established that and I said we could raise money and provide it to the students to study at the university. We loan money. I’m very happy to tell you that up until now, during the last few years, we already have 12,00 qualified students who receive a loan and they study and they return back the money.
Dora: The story is that in 1948, my father went to Israel to fight for the country for the independence war. After the war, he was trying to go to school to Technion as he mentioned and it was very difficult. Those were very difficult times. He had to support himself, his mother and his brother. Without having financial means, it was very difficult, so he had to work at night and during the day, in the classroom, he would fall asleep. He decided he could not continue like that and he went into business. He started working. He always wanted to go back to school and he always had that sense of loss that he did not continue his education, so years later when he became successful, he decided to make sure all those in his position years before would not have that problem and if they want to study they would have the means to go to school. And that’s how we went to the president of Tel Aviv University and he shared his views. Being good friends he told him, who do you think is going to get money and return it to you without any guarantees? And my father said that we are not going to send the police men after them and today we see that 97 percent of all of those students who go to school, and finish their education, they all return the money. This is the money that he put in and the vision he had to promote higher education and get the students to go to school. It started first interest free loans but now it’s open for scholarships as well as. We often get to meet here, often just by coincidence, students who have studied and benefitted from Magbit’s loans and scholarships and they’re established in life in different fields.
You are on the Board of Directors. What kind of work does the board do?
Dora: The board of Magbit – after the initial few years, that my father was the initiator – has become a community outreach. It strengthens the ties between the community here in Los Angeles, so bringing in the support of the community has become a number one priority, so that we bring not only bigger funds for this matter but also getting people closer to students and making connections between them, getting to know them and getting the bond between the community here and the schools so that they become more interested, they become themselves owners to schools and adopt different projects.
“Everyone asks me, how did you get this idea? Because I went to the university and I was not able to carry on. I left and went to work on feeding my mother. Now, I am here working, formed a community group here, have an opportunity to raise money, and give it to them.'” – Magbit founder Parviz Nazarian
This year, you are being honored with the foundation’s humanitarian award. How does it feel to receive this honor?
Parviz: Very good.
Dora: I think for him being involved in so many charitable organizations and starting his philanthropic work back in Iran, where it was, being a Muslim country, not being able to announce it or do it wide in the open, philanthropy has not been something that just came up new. Ever since he was a 17-year-old boy in Iran, he used to help the community. I think it sort of becomes [part of] the DNA without thinking about being honored or any expectations.
You’re also a business owner in the community. Tell us about your business.
Parviz: I come to work in the early morning, drink my first cup of tea, call a few people. [laughs]
Dora: He’s involved in a variety of different businesses. Mostly, he started with a tool and dying company with Precision Tool and Dying in Los Angeles. That’s 30 years ago that he started it.
Parviz: [The company] made parts for the space shuttle.
Dora: In that company, they made precision parts for aviation and the navy.
And there’s also Omninet, right?
Dora: Omninet is involved in venture capital, so they are involved in a variety of startups, real estate, both in the U.S., and overseas. He was also one of the founders of the hi-tech company, Qualcomm.
Tell us about your family.
Parviz: I have four children [Dora, Dalia, Daphna and Benjamin] and 14 grandchildren. [His wife, Pouran Nazarian, is the gala chair.]
Why is the work that Magbit does so important?
Dora: I think the most important thing about Magbit for him is that it was to fulfill the dream that he never went to school, so it’s fulfilling that dream of finishing school for other young people. One of the reasons that my father is so involved in education is that he believes that one of our highest resources is education and our youth, the younger generation. Our youth are our resources, so we have to make sure that they get the best education to take us through the 21st century.
Can you tell us some details about the gala on April 21st?
Dora: On this one, he wouldn’t know that much because he is the honoree, but we are expecting about 800 people that evening. It’s a black-tie event at the Beverly Hilton and they’re planning a big entertainment program for him and the rest he’s going to see there. They don’t do fundraising that evening. However these are the supporters of Magbit who would typically donate and purchase tables and donate to different funds and scholarships and adopt students.
Parviz: I want to thank people for supporting the Magbit Foundation for helping the education of [the youth]. It’s very important. Everyone asks me, how did you get this idea? Because I went to the university and I was not able to carry on. I left and went to work on feeding my mother. Now, I am here working, formed a community group here, have an opportunity to raise money and give back. The funny thing is the people who [receive the loans] are paying back the money without any pressure. [They get] the money, study, after they get out, they even support [the foundation]. It’s very important in teaching people how to work together.