Bernard Marcus

Class of 1993

  • Founder, Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer The Home Depot
  • Chairman The Marcus Foundation

People who are bright, have common sense, and understand how to deal with and communicate with others are not limited in what they can do in life.

Born in 1929 to Russian immigrant parents, Bernard Marcus grew up in a tenement in Newark, New Jersey. His father was a cabinetmaker, but Marcus wanted to be a doctor one day. After high school graduation, he could not afford medical school, so he worked his way through Rutgers University to earn a pharmacy degree.

After college, he worked at a drugstore, at a cosmetics company, and at discount store chains and other retail outlets. By the late 1970s, he had become chairman of Handy Dan, a California-based home improvement store chain.

In 1978, Marcus teamed up with his friend, Arthur Blank, to open The Home Depot, which grew to become the world's largest home improvement retailer with outlets in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. Fortune magazine consistently ranked Home Depot "America's Most Admired Specialty Retailer."

Asked if there are as many opportunities for success today as in the past, Marcus says, "I think the people who are bright, articulate, and able to communicate have no limits in what they can achieve. What is important is to listen and learn, and to know how to get along with people."

Committed to sharing his success with others, Marcus has devoted more than 20 years to the City of Hope, a cancer research center. He is a major supporter of Atlanta's Shepherd Center, the nation's largest rehabilitation hospital for spinal care patients; a new wing of the hospital was named in honor of his wife, Billi. Likewise, Emory University's Marcus Developmental Resource Center provides services and information to disabled people and their families. Marcus is also one of the founders of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.