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Charles Gelman

Charles Gelman, 86, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, died on 13 April 2018.

The Funeral was held at Beth Israel Congregation, 2000 Washtenaw Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 on Tuesday, 17 April 2018 at 11:00 AM .

Rabbi Robert Dobrusin officiated.

Click to watch a video of the recorded service.

Interment at Beth Israel Memorial Garden at Arborcrest Cemetery.

Click for Directions for Cemetery

The family of Charles Gelman will be gathering through the evening of Wednesday, April 18 at the residence, 505 E. Huron #805, Ann Arbor MI 48104.

The family will gather on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Religious services will be conducted at 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Click for Directions to Shiva

Charles Gelman was born December 14, 1931, in a poor neighborhood in Manhattan. He was the only son of Fay and Robert Eisenberg and grandson to Edel and Rose Eisenberg, first generation immigrants from Ukraine.

Diagnosed with rheumatic fever at age 12, Charles spent months in Vanderbilt Hospital, where his scientific curiosity blossomed after the hospital lab invited him to help measure blood clotting rates. When the doctor advised his mother to find housing for Charles without the five-story walk-up, he moved to The Hebrew National Orphan Home (aka Homecrest), a residence for boys in Yonkers. Charles felt as if he’d been sent to the “Rockefeller Estate.”

The opportunities at Homecrest changed the course of Charles’ life. He enrolled in Roosevelt Public High School, where he devoured literature and philosophy. He ranked third for the New York Regents exam in Westchester County and accepted a full scholarship to Syracuse University.

After college, he moved to Baltimore and worked at the Army Chemical Center in Edgewood, Maryland. He conducted air sampling studies and devised an innovative test to show the presence of nerve gas using cholinesterase, an enzyme found in cockroaches.

Next, Charles moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to conduct hourly air samplings for the U.S. Public Health Service. This project inspired his invention of an automated sequential air sampler and resulted in the discovery of unreported nightly emissions from a creosote manufacturing plant.

Charles married Rita Specter in 1956. They moved to Chelsea, Michigan, so he could complete a Masters in Industrial Hygiene at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. While completing his studies, Charles’ former boss asked him to manufacture twelve air sampling machines based his earlier prototype. (later renamed Gelman Sciences, Inc.)

Charles was a rare combination of inventor and businessman as he found new markets for his products. Gelman filters were used in the pharmaceutical, electronic, chemical, and beverage industries worldwide. Gelman Sciences eventually became one of the largest publicly-traded companies in Michigan. By the 1990's the company was developing and manufacturing more membranes in more types of devices than any other company in the world.

Always giving credit to Rita for raising their four children, Charles poured every ounce of energy into his work. He was named Outstanding Man of the Year by the Ann Arbor Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1967. His company received many awards, including the Trailblazer Award from the Detroit Science Center and the national “E” Star (Export) Award. In 1986, Gelman Sciences was named one of 101 Best Performing Companies in America, ranking 58th nationally for longevity, 83rd in productivity, and 87th in sales.

In 1996, at the time of its sale to Pall Corporation, Gelman Sciences employed more than 900 people around the world, with subsidiaries in Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Ireland, France, Italy, and Japan, and manufacturing facilities in Pensacola, Florida, Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Pleasanton, California. Charles sought opportunities to mentor individuals, also hiring clients from Peace Neighborhood Center.

After selling Gelman Sciences, Charles and Rita devoted expertise and generous financial support to numerous philanthropic causes. Together, they supported the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor, Beth Israel Congregation, Ann Arbor Jewish Federation, Ann Arbor Community Center, Peace Neighborhood Center, Michigan Theater Foundation, and many more organizations. Charles worked tirelessly to help build the new Ann Arbor YMCA building and served on that board of directors for 16 years. In 2008, Charles and Rita endowed the University of Michigan Risk Science Center in the School of Public Health. In 2017, after almost 20 years on the U-M School of Public Health Advisory Board, the Gelmans funded the U-M Gelman Global Scholars program, supporting student internships and research with an emphasis on Israel.

While visiting Theresienstadt concentration camp, Charles and Rita learned about Nicholas Winton, a young British stockbroker, who saved 669 Czech Jewish children from the Nazi regime. Impressed with Winton’s story, the Gelman Educational Foundation funded production of a documentary film, The Power of Good, which aired to over one million people worldwide and won an international Emmy Award in 2002.

At Charles’s 85th birthday party, guests spoke to the couple’s continual generosity, kindness, and mentoring that brought people to their current accomplishments. Gelman’s life was the achievement of the American dream. He used persistence and compassion to push beyond limiting circumstances to better himself and the world around him. He will always be remembered as a champion of the underdog who shared generously from his own success to help those in need.

It is suggested that those who wish to further honor the memory of Charles Gelman may do so by making a contribution to:

YMCA - Ann Arbor
400 W Washington St
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Click to Visit Charity Website

Jewish Community Center of Ann Arbor
2935 Birch Hollow Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Click to Visit Charity Website

University of Michigan - School of Public Health
Gelman Scholars Fund
3003 South State Street, Ste 9000
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1288
Click to Visit Charity Website

Michigan Theater Foundation
603 East Liberty Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 668-8463
Click to Visit Charity Website

Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan Hospital
Kidney Disease Research Fund
3003 South State Street, Ste 9000
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1288
Click to Visit Charity Website