Max “Lee” Leichtag and his wife, Andre “Toni” Leichtag co-founded the Leichtag Family Foundation in 1991. Their daughter, Joli Ann Leichtag, was actively involved in the Foundation’s activities until her death. In sustaining our deep respect for and honor of the Leichtags’ charitable intent, in 2011 the Foundation sought to deepen its understanding of the Leichtags’ most closely-held values through personal interviews with family and close friends, including many members of the Leichtag Foundation Board. These interviews were woven together to produce The Leichtag Legacy, a movie describing the Leichtags’ journey to becoming philanthropists whose generosity continues to profoundly bless our community. We invite you to view their story to learn more about this extraordinary family.
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Max “Lee” Leichtag
Lee Leichtag was a pharmaceutical industry entrepreneur who transformed his stunning financial success into a second vocation as a visionary philanthropist. This son of Hungarian immigrants was born in Pittsburgh and moved to Southern California as a young man. He and his family eventually resided in the upscale rural San Diego community of Fairbanks Ranch.
Mr. Leichtag began his career as a mercantile sales representative, progressing to vitamin sales and later founding the American Vitamin Company. In 1973, Mr. Leichtag established MD Pharmaceutical, Inc., a company that manufactured generic drugs and vitamins.
Upon the company’s sale in 1991, Mr. Leichtag and his wife formed the Leichtag Family Foundation. In 1992, he founded Divinity Religious Products, Inc. Divinity created and marketed Catholic learning games designed to inspire families to play and pray together.
Throughout his life, Mr. Leichtag possessed an exuberant life spirit and unquenchable optimism. He joked that his extraordinary financial success was motivated by “fear of poverty.” His earnest motivation for establishing the Leichtag Family Foundation was to improve the quality of life of people and the community by ameliorating the poverty that exists on many levels throughout human existence.
Andre “Toni” Leichtag
When asked to name his most significant accomplishment in life, Lee Leichtag said, “My marriage to Toni.” Toni and Lee Leichtag were married on December 25, 1941 and were full partners in life. Mrs. Leichtag served as a corporate officer in MD Pharmaceutical, Inc. and Divinity Religious Products, Inc. Formerly Chairwoman of the Board of the Leichtag Family Foundation, she later held the position of Chairwoman Emeritus.
Over the years, Mrs. Leichtag was generous with both her time and money. She served on the Board of Directors of several organizations, including Scripps Memorial Hospital, Encinitas (Scripps Encinitas); Hospice of the North Coast; Seacrest Village Retirement Communities; and Voices for Children, Inc. She was a founder of the Circle of Life 100 at Scripps Encinitas.
After her husband’s death, Mrs. Leichtag donated their Fairbanks Ranch property, valued at $3.8 million, to Scripps Encinitas, capping 25 years of family support to the facility. In 2009, in recognition of a $500,000 Leichtag Family Foundation grant, San Diego Botanic Gardens in Encinitas named its new Hamilton’s Children’s Garden climbable feature “Toni’s Tree House.”
Born in Canada and raised in Washington, Mrs. Leichtag was a blues singer early in her life who was featured with several orchestras.
Joli Ann Leichtag
Joli Ann Leichtag served as Vice President of the Leichtag Family Foundation until her death from cancer at age 60. Her life revolved around education and children; initially as a kindergarten teacher, then as a single parent to her daughter, Heather.
As sole proprietor, first of Looking Marvelous and later of Polished Professionals, Ms. Leichtag specialized in enhancing workplace performance and success through business etiquette training. She developed and led corporate training seminars for high-ranking companies in diverse industries, including General Motors, Farmers Insurance, the U.S. Postal Service and Disney Properties. She also served as Director of Protocol and Public Affairs on a U.S. trade mission to China.
Upon her death, the Leichtag Family Foundation pledged $6 million in Ms. Leichtag’s name to the San Marcos Unified School District’s Partners Advancing College Education (PACE) PromiseTM, a joint program with California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). PACE Promise guarantees admission to CSUSM for every District student who meets admission criteria. In recognition of the grant, the District named its newest K-5 school the Joli Ann Leichtag Elementary School.