(JTA) — Sy Syms, the founder of a discount retail clothing chain and a major philanthropist, has died.
Syms, who supported many Jewish and non-Jewish causes, died Tuesday in New York from heart failure. He was 83.
He was a founding board member of the Sy Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University and served on the university’s board of trustees. In 1987 he donated $12 million to create the YU graduate business school. He also supported many other schools and universities.
Syms established the Sy Syms Foundation, which endowed philanthropic institutions including The American Heart Association, Boys Town of Jerusalem, Children’s Cancer Center & Blood Foundation, Congregation Emanu-El, Friends of the Israel Philharmonic, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York and Public Television.
He founded the Syms off-price men’s clothing store in 1959. Syms is best known for appearing in commercials for the chain in which he states that "An educated consumer is our best customer" — a slogan that remains to this day.
Syms remained CEO of the Syms Corp. until 1998, when he was succeeded by his daughter, Marcy. Syms continued as the company’s chairman until his death.
He was born Seymour Merinsky in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family changed its surname to Merns when Syms’ father and older brother opened a retail clothing store called Merns. He legally changed his name to Sy Syms after he had to change the name of the Merns store due to a lawsuit.