Morris Jurkowitz

Philanthropist serves college, medicine.
November 9, 2006 7:15 AM

Morris "Morrie" Jurkowitz has seen a lot of changes since he moved to Santa Barbara 43 years ago.

"It was different. There were stoplights on the freeway, there were a lot less cars, and the town folded up early at night."

A pillar of philanthropy in an ever-changing city, Mr. Jurkowitz, a longtime real estate investor, has been chosen to receive a News-Press Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort.

"I'm thrilled to be one of the recipients," said Mr. Jurkowitz, admitting he usually likes to stay out of the public eye. "I feel honored to deserve it."

Born and raised in Scranton, Penn., Mr. Jurkowitz graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor's degree in science engineering. He stayed on for two years of graduate work in the Materials Science Department, but a 1962 summer job in the aerospace industry of Los Angeles changed his mind about that career path.

He met some people from Santa Barbara and decided to move to the area and go into real estate. At the time, not a lot of money was being made in the business.

"When I got here there was no La Cumbre shopping center . . . you could buy a nice tract home for about $20,000," he said. On the coast near the Miramar Hotel, small beach shacks went for about the same price.

Mr. Jurkowitz spoke proudly of the organizations and institutions he's served in town since those early days. Prominent among them is his position on the board of the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College, on which he has served for 15 years. During the past three years, he has also served on the board of trustees for the college.

"It's a growing nicely," he said of the college. "It's very affordable and they have wonderful programs. For a community college it really is up at the top of the whole nation . . . there's tremendous opportunities going to that school that I don't think people realize."

Serving on the board of the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara is another commitment near and dear to his heart. He speaks about it from experience, as his wife, Irma, was treated there.

"I can't say enough about them," Mr. Jurkowitz said. "Cancer is kind of a scary thing, but they do a wonderful job of trying to make a bad experience a lot better."

Mr. Jurkowitz has supported numerous local organizations in other ways, including the restoration of the Granada Theatre, a building he used to own. He has also served on the boards of the Santa Barbara Girls Club (now Girls Inc.), Santa Barbara Jewish Federation, Laguna Blanca School and Christmas Unity.

Above all, he credits his wife and family as his greatest assets in a town he knows and loves.

"It's been a wonderful place to work, and a wonderful place to live, and a wonderful place to raise my family. I think it's the best place in the world to live."