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Commencement Profile: David Karpeles

Commencement Profile: David Karpeles

Posted: May 7, 2012

David Karpeles is the founder and chief executive officer of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums, the world’s largest private holdings of historic original manuscripts and documents.

Karpeles will receive the honorary doctor of humane letters from the State University of New York during the 2:00 p.m. baccalaureate ceremony at Buffalo State's 140th Commencement, Saturday, May 12, in the Sports Arena.

The Karpeles museums—which include artifacts from history, literature, science, music, art, and religion—are now located in 11 cities across the country, including Santa Barbara, California; Buffalo, New York; Charleston, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Tacoma, Washington; Duluth, Minnesota; and Shreveport, Louisiana. The museums are open to both scholars and the general public, all free of charge.

Among the collections’ more than 1 million treasures are an original draft of the U.S. Bill of Rights; Einstein’s description of his Theory of Relativity; George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation; letters from Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Galileo Galilei, and Martin Luther; original scores from Mozart, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Wagner, including the original manuscript of his “Bridal Chorus” (“Here Comes The Bride”), as well as Handel’s Messiah written in the hand of Beethoven. Military items include the original German surrender agreement from the end of World War II.

Committed to using his collection for the greater good, Karpeles directs his libraries to provide free educational programs and lectures for schools at all levels. The most popular of these are the cultural literacy programs and the school outreach programs. In addition, 242 mini-museums are maintained in many universities, secondary schools, and grade schools throughout the United States and Canada.

Born in Santa Barbara, California, Karpeles earned his undergraduate degree in three years from the University of Minnesota Duluth and later received his master’s degree in mathematics from San Diego State University.

He began a real estate investment business in California while working in research at the General Electric Tempo division, where he created the first operating optical character recognition program. The program automatically read the handwritten amounts on bank checks and printed those amounts magnetically in the checks’ margins. He completed his doctoral coursework in 1971 at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and received his Ph.D. in history from Atlantic International University in 2003 after completing his dissertation, “Biblical Historicity.”

Karpeles and his wife, Marsha, who serves as executive director of the Karpeles museums, have four children—Mark, Leslie, Cheryl, and Jason—and 10 grandchildren.

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