Iris Cantor
Iris Bazel

(1931-02-14) February 14, 1931 (age 92)
Occupation(s)fashion model
stock broker
executive secretary
SpouseBernard Gerald Cantor (1977–1996)
Awards Legion of Honour – Officer (2017)

Iris Cantor is a New York City and Los Angeles -based philanthropist, with a primary interest in medicine and the arts. Cited as among the 50 top contributors in the United States,[1] as head of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation,[2] her foundation has donated several hundred million dollars to museums, universities and hospitals since 1978.

Early life

Born Iris Bazel (February 14, 1931), the first daughter of Fay and Al Bazel, she grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York City. Her mother was originally from Pennsylvania and her father was a Jewish Russian immigrant. Her younger sister Enid was born three years later.[3]

Bernie Cantor

Iris, Messenger of the Gods by Auguste Rodin, bronze, modeled 1891, property of Iris Cantor

Drawn to Manhattan, she worked as a fashion model and stockbroker before eventually being hired by bond brokerage Cantor Fitzgerald around 1967, as an executive secretary.[4] In 1977, she married the firm's founder and majority owner, Bernard Gerald Cantor. It was her third marriage, and lasted nearly 20 years until his death in 1996.[5] By this time, "Bernie" Cantor had amassed a fortune said to exceed $500 million, receiving $50 million in annual dividends as of 1995.[4]

Subsequent to his business success, Mr. Cantor became a well-regarded art collector, and most notably had acquired over 750 sculptures and drawings by Auguste Rodin, and many American and European masters' paintings.[5]

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation

In 1978, the year after their union, the Cantors founded the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation as a vehicle for their philanthropy.[5] In 1996, after acrimonious litigation with her husband's successor,[6] Mrs. Cantor sold her inherited 55% stake to the 170 limited partners of Cantor Fitzgerald, and the company agreed to additionally fund the foundation.[7]

Over the years, the foundation has donated approximately 450 Rodin pieces to museums around the world, with many going to New York's Metropolitan Museum and Brooklyn Museum, Stanford University and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.[5]

In addition to the artworks, the foundation has financed numerous museum and university expansions:

Since 1995, she has been a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum and the Brooklyn Museum, as well as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and North Carolina Museum of Art among others.[13]

She has made additional donations to medical facilities and foundations:

Cantor has sat on the Board of Trustees of New York-Presbyterian Hospital since 1989.[18] Other board memberships include Exploring the Arts, and the Dean's Committee of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.[14]


Mrs. Cantor has received numerous awards and honorary degrees, including a National Medal of Arts awarded by President Clinton in 1995,.[19] For her work promoting appreciation for the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, she was made a Knight in France's Legion of Honour in 2000,[20] which was upgraded to an Officer on 20 March 2017.[21]


In 2011, she sold the 34,000 square foot Bel-Air mansion that Bernie had built for her, for a reported $40 million.[22]


  1. ^ " - Philanthropy 50 of 2010".
  2. ^ a b "The Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2000, Great Dames of California". Los Angeles Times. 14 May 2000.
  3. ^ " Abstract of 1940 US Census document".
  4. ^ a b Los Angeles Magazine, Jul 1998 p100-105 The Belle of Bel-Air. July 1998.
  5. ^ a b c d Pace, Eric (6 July 1996). "New York Times, July 06, 1996 - B. Gerald Cantor, Philanthropist and Owner of Rodin Collection, Is Dead at 79, By Eric Pace". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Henriques, Diana B. (28 April 1996). "New York Times, April 28, 1996 - With Partners Like These, Who Needs Rivals? by Diana Henriques". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1996 - Cantor Fitzgerald Pact Puts an End to Infighting by The Associated Press Staff". Los Angeles Times. 8 May 1996.
  8. ^ Brozan, Nadine (19 December 1986). "New York Times, Dec 19, 1986 - The Evening Hours by Nadine Brozan". The New York Times.
  9. ^ " - The Cantor Gift to The Brooklyn Museum".
  10. ^ Brozan, Nadine (31 March 1994). "New York Times, Mar 31, 1994 - The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford, By Nadine Brozan". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "New York University, Tisch School of the Arts website". Archived from the original on 2011-07-05. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  12. ^ "Holy Cross website". Archived from the original on 2013-04-21. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  13. ^ "Met Museum website, Board of Trustees in Annual Report" (PDF).
  14. ^ a b c "UCLA Website: Iris Cantor - UCLA Women's Health Center About Page".
  15. ^ "NewYork Presbyterian Hospital website".
  16. ^ "Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Press Release April 18, 2007".
  17. ^ "School of Medicine receives $10M grant to develop women's health treatment". Retrieved 2019-08-01.
  18. ^ "Hospital Leadership - Board of Trustees". New York Presbyterian. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  19. ^ Brozan, Nadine (6 October 1995). "New York Times, Oct 06, 1995 By Nadine Brozan". The New York Times.
  20. ^ "Introduction of Iris Cantor at 2003 Commencement Address". College of the Holy Cross. Archived from the original on 11 August 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  21. ^ Donnelly, Shannon (15 April 2017). "French government thanks Rodin lover Iris Cantor". National Archives - Léonore Database (in French). France. Archived from the original on 11 August 2021. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  22. ^ "Los Angeles Times, June 09, 2011 - Bel-Air mansion built for Iris Cantor sells for $40 million, By Lauren Beale". Los Angeles Times. 9 June 2011.