On July 5, 2013, our community lost a great leader and philanthropist, Sol Zechter z"l, who passed away at the age of 86. Sol was a founding member of Jewish Federation & Family Services’ Solomon Society and a 20-year member of the board of directors and investment committee of the Jewish Community Foundation. He and his beloved wife, Bunny, also supported, volunteered for, and served on the boards of Temple Beth Sholom, University Synagogue and the American Jewish Committee.
A music aficionado, Sol loved to sing and play his guitar. His diverse musical tastes spanned all styles and genres, from classical to country, blues to big band, and especially rock and pop. His passion for music and his desire to share that love with children led him to establish his greatest legacy to the Orange County Jewish community: the Sol & Bunny Zechter Music Center.
Sol and Bunny saw the Center as an extension of themselves, and were intimately involved in every step of its development. After its launch in January 2012, they never missed an opportunity to come and hear the students play, delighting in seeing the children’s faces light up as they mastered a new piece of music or watched a performance by a celebrated artist.
Sol was a true visionary and an inspiring role model for community leadership. His commitment to leaving a legacy through his philanthropy enabled him to make his and Bunny's dream come true – a dream that children will enjoy for generations to come. He will be greatly missed and remembered by our community, and especially by the many young people whose lives he touched through his Zechter Music Center.
Bunny Zechter continues her leadership role in the Zechter Music Center, carefully guiding its activities and programs. She looks forward to the opportunity to meet many new students this coming year, to hear them make music, and to inspire their love of music. The following bio of the Zechters was written before Sol's passing:
Sol and Bunny Zechter are natives of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were married in 1953 and raised three children – Rick, Larry and Susan. In 1966, they moved with their family to Los Altos, California when Sol was asked to take on a new business by his company. In 1970, again in connection with a business-related venture, the Zechters moved to Orange County, where Bunny lives today.
Sol Zechter states, “I learned very early that activities and people are what can make for a happy life – not creature comforts.” He also learned the value of hard work, noting that when he was in junior high and high school, after he would come home from his studies, he would handle his father’s store while his dad was out. “I found that I really enjoyed doing business,” he says. He also worked weekend nights in a local post office.
Sports were part of his youth. “As a kid and teenager, I played sports all the time – hockey in the streets, baseball, football, bike riding, along with the usual kid games. As I got older, tennis became my greatest game of interest.” Music was also a part of his young life: “I was exposed to music in elementary school. Once a month, a local orchestra came to play, and once a week we would sing songs. I got a radio when I was about 12 years old and I would listen all the time, to a wide variety of music.” Later in life, he became a self-taught guitarist.
In early 1945, shortly after his 18th birthday, Sol joined the U.S. Navy and went through the Navy’s electronics schools. “I spent part of my Navy time in California, and decided that one day I would return.” Because Sol enjoyed learning about electronics, he decided to make that his career. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Drexel University, and obtained a Master’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. He also studied business at UPenn’s Wharton School of Business. Bunny Zechter also graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, with a degree in medical technology.
He began his business career in Philadelphia with Ford Aerospace, beginning as a Senior Engineer, rising through the ranks to become Director of Communications and subsequently Director of Information Systems. “After Gary Powers was shot down in the U2 plane, which kept track of what the Russians were doing,” says Sol, “the Air Force defined a polar satellite system to do the job. This was in the mid-1960s and it was a very advanced program. So I was asked to come to Palo Alto to build an organization dedicated to the ground equipment needed to implement this program. It became an organization of 1,500 people, mostly from engineering backgrounds. We did work for the U.S. Air Force, the NASA manned space program, as well as industrial systems for California Water Resources and others.” While Sol worked, Bunny was an active mom to their three teenagers, involved in all of their activities including Little League.
In 1970, Sol left Ford Aerospace to become part of the rapidly-growing commercial computer industry, as President of the OC-based company Documentor. This company became the leader in management systems for the food service industry. He subsequently joined Emulex as a senior executive and was instrumental in its significant growth and its eventual split into two large companies: Emulex and Q-Logic.
Sol retired from Emulex but his “itch to get involved again” led him to invest in and become Chief Executive Officer of Continuus Software. He led the company from its startup to success as a public company. When he decided to stop working full-time, Sol became a member of the Tech Coast Angels, investing in technology startups and mentoring their CEOs.
Since their move to Orange County in 1970, Bunny and Sol have been actively involved in supporting, volunteering and serving on the boards of Temple Beth Sholom, University Synagogue, the Jewish Community Foundation of Orange County, the American Jewish Committee and the Solomon Society of Jewish Federation & Family Services. They “enjoy high rise living in Irvine” and pursuing their passions. They both enjoy going to music and theatre performances; Bunny loves reading, knitting and Mah Jongg. And while Sol plays bridge, his most favorite leisure-time activity is sitting down with his guitar to play and to sing, or listening to his vast collection of CDs covering the gamut of musical traditions from classical to country, from blues to big band standards, and especially rock and pop.
In late 2010 the Zechters approached Jewish Federation & Family Services with the outline of a music center they envisioned, to provide free music lessons and music appreciation information and activities to Jewish youth in Orange County. Over the course of one year, they were hands-on involved in the development of the Zechter Music Center, participating in discussions and activities of JFFS with Tarbut V’Torah, Pacific Symphony and UCI.
This extensive research led to their establishment of the Zechter Endowment with the Jewish Community Foundation, the interest of which will fund, in perpetuity, the Zechter Music Center of Jewish Federation & Family Services. It is their hope that additional community members will step forward to support this program, enabling Zechter Music Center activities to expand and reach the breadth of our widespread Jewish community in years to come.