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San Francisco Philanthropist Richard Goldman Dies At 90

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Richard Goldman. (UC Berkeley)

Richard Goldman. (UC Berkeley)

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — 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 at home of unspecified natural causes, said Amy Lyons, executive director of the foundation that awards the prize.

Launched in 1989, the $150,000 Goldman Prize is informally dubbed the “Green Nobel.” It’s awarded annually to six people who took 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.

“Goldman Prize recipients are proof that ordinary people are capable of doing truly extraordinary things,” Goldman wrote previously in a letter posted on the prize website.

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

“The Goldman Prize has served as a real inspiration to environmental activists around the world,” said Jacob Scherr, director of global strategy and advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “With his passing, let it be known that Richard was too an environmental hero.”

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.

Richard founded insurance brokerage firm Goldman Insurance Services in 1949, 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 Friday in San Francisco.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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