Dr. Leonard S. Polonsky CBE has had a successful business career in the financial services sector and is a philanthropist with particular interests in cultural heritage, higher education in the humanities, and the arts.
Dr. Polonsky grew up in New York City. He was a pupil at the prestigious Townsend Harris High School, and received his B.A. degree from New York University at age 18. Following military service in 1945–46, he pursued graduate studies in literature at Lincoln College, Oxford, and at the Sorbonne, Paris, where he received his doctorate in 1952. He taught in Heidelberg for several years before embarking on his business career.
Dr. Polonsky began working in financial services in New York in 1955, gaining further experience in Rome, Frankfurt, and Zurich, before establishing Liberty Life Assurance Company Limited in London in 1970. Hansard Global plc, its successor, of which he is President, has been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 2006.
Dr. Polonsky has involved himself in a broad range of philanthropic activities over many years. In 2013 he was named a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for charitable services by HM Queen Elizabeth II. He is a Companion of the Guild of Benefactors of Cambridge University, a Fleming Fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford, and an Honorary Member of the Royal College of Music, London. He holds an Honorary Doctorate from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, of which he is a Governor and where he serves on the Board of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace. He is a Governor and Honorary Fellow of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem.
He is founding chairman of the board of trustees of The Polonsky Foundation, which supports charitable projects in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Israel, and Europe. Principal activities of The Polonsky Foundation include: the digitisation of significant collections at leading libraries (the Bodleian Library, Oxford; Cambridge University Library; the British Library; the New York Public Library; the Library of Congress; the Vatican Apostolic Library); support for Theatre for a New Audience at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, New York; and The Polonsky Academy for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, and the post-doctoral fellowships it offers.