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Benjamin Ordover ’53

Benjamin OrdoverBenjamin Ordover ’53 (pictured with his wife and grandson) knows great things can come from taking chances. After all, he gained the foundation for a stellar marketing career while a Syracuse University student—though it required some risk on both sides.

“At first, SU didn’t want to accept me, even though I had a 91 average in high school. I failed the College Boards, because I never thought they were that important,” Ordover says. The University did accept him, but on academic probation. “That fired up my competitive spirit and made me want to excel in college,” he says. “I graduated third in my class, magna cum laude. Being told you are ‘unworthy’ can make or break you.”

Ordover became the first person in his family to attend college and established the beginning of a Syracuse legacy. His brother, Abraham, graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1958, and his son, Mark ’83, is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business from Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management and serving in the military, Ordover took another chance and wrote a novel. Publishers declined the manuscript, so the book never made it into print. However, editors praised Ordover’s writing ability, which inspired him to seek a career that combined his business background and love of writing.

He landed a job as an advertising copywriter, which proved to be the perfect fit. Ordover continued advancing in his career, during which he became vice president of marketing for CBS Columbia House at age 42, and president at 50. Now retired, he plays golf, travels, and for 26 years has served on The Library of America’s board of trustees, presently holding the office of treasurer. 

Ordover considers education life’s great leveler and is grateful that his family had the means to send him to college. He’s also aware that his professional success began with Syracuse taking a chance on him more than 60 years ago. For that reason, Ordover is one of the University’s most devoted supporters—donating to SU every year since his graduation.

Recently, the Atlanta resident took his charity even further—establishing the Ordover Family Endowed Scholarship through an estate gift. Recalling his own unique circumstances surrounding his acceptance, Ordover designed the scholarship to create opportunity for students with varying backgrounds and accomplishments—including community service, employment, the arts, or athletics—who have demonstrated significant financial need. “Charity to me is a way of life, not a sometime thing,” he says. “My family’s endowed scholarship also sets a target for my children to add to the endowment in their later years. Giving back—or giving forward, as some call it—is a great feeling for me.”