INSIDE THE MAGBIT FOUNDATION
The Weekly’s interview with President Bijan Nahai
By Diana Vu
Tell us about the Magbit Foundation.
The Magbit Foundation is a charitable organization that started approximately 20 years ago. Its purpose is to provide interest-free loans to college students who have obtained admittance to universities. The foundation has given over 9,500 loans and we assist approximately 500 students each school year. As the students graduate and enter the workforce, they would then repay the loans that the foundation had provided them. Essentially, what we now see is an organization that has approximately $7 million in circulation. And 97 percent of the loans that we have extended have been repaid. Certainly these students are worthy of the donation and take their education seriously. There isn’t a deadline, but they know that within a reasonable period of their graduation, once they’ve entered the workforce, they will begin to pay the loans back either in full sum or installments. They all are very respecting of the fact that we make financial possibilities for them to take on a graduate education.
You are also involved in the insurance business, how did you become involved in that
My family owned the largest privately held insurance company in Iran. I became a graduate of the London Insurance Institute, I then went back to Iran and joined by father and uncle with the insurance company and ran the international division. In 1979, they nationalized the insurance industry in Iran, therefore they nationalized our company without any compensation and because of our ethnic backgrounds and high profile, and it was not a safe haven for us to remain in Iran. That was when we ventured into the United States. After time, and after we realized this was our permanent home, I then established a brokerage by the name of Nahai Insurance services here in Beverly Hills back in 1980.
Tell us about your family.
I have been married for 36 years to Mahnaz [Nahai]. I have a daughter [Azita Nahai] who is getting her doctorate in human development and I have a son [Shahrad Nahai] who is a graduate of Boston University majoring in finance. He joined a firm about 8 years ago and now has taken the reigns of being our chief operating officer. He will be overseeing much of the technology that our business requires as well as consult.
What sparked your interest in becoming a part of the Foundation?
My father, being a huge philanthropist, instilled in us as kids, the worthiness of being involved in charity. As such, I saw education as very integral and important, and Magbit was the right fit. I have been involved directly and indirectly for approximately 19 years. I’ve been president for the past three years. We’ve made some great strides, and taken on new universities. Our growth and expansion with universities has been very encouraging, as well as the level of fundraising that we’ve been able to accomplish.
Tell us more about the Board of Directors that you work with.
[Vice Mayor] Jimmy Delshad is the chair, and I work with a diverse group of people. Real estate developers, people involved in the manufacturing field, and people who have brought in their energy to assist with new ideas and thoughts. Fortunately, we’ve had a very active board, one comprised of successful business people in the community. Soloman Gabbay, Mr. and Mrs. Parviz Nazarian, Ebby Simhaee, all these people are specific individuals who have made tremendous impact on the organization.
What is one of the biggest accomplishments you’ve seen from your time as president?
We took it upon ourselves to honor an individual who has been successful and not only in philanthropy, but in business. We introduced this concept to honor individuals with the Humanitarian Award at the Gala during my presidency. That has created more awareness for Magbit and has increased the number of participants at our event.
Tell us more about the Gala coming up in May.
It’s on May 12th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. It’s in the middle of the week; we usually have it on a Sunday. Again, we anticipate that we will have a really good turnout, even though the economy is somewhat distressed. You can check out the website [www.magbit.org] or call the Magbit Foundation for more information. It is an event that really brings the community together for a good cause.