Hall of Fame Chronology
2017 The Jewish Journal includes Mel Wacks in its Annual Mensch List, in the January 6-12 issue. Hereís an excerpt of the article by Eitan Arom:
Wacks left a long career in electrical engineering to be a professional numismatist, or coin collector. But he was still working as an electrical engineer near Sacramento when he had a chance encounter that would lead to the creation of the Jewish-American Hall of Fame.
One day in the mid-1970s, he and Esther drove to the now-defunct Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley. Striking up a conversation with a museum employee, Mel mentioned that he was a coin collector. The man turned out to be Seymour Fromer, the museum director, and he brought on Wacks as the museumís numismatic consultant.
As the 1976 bicentennial of the founding of the United States was approaching, commemorative medals were growing popular. The idea inspired Wacks to begin commissioning medals to commemorate milestones in Jewish-American history, and heís done it every year since.
Over that span, he has given $171,000 to the Magnes Museum, which folded into UC Berkeley in 2010. In 2001, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame became a division of the American Jewish Historical Society, and much of the proceeds since have gone to that organization, along with the Virginia Holocaust Museum and the American Numismatic Society.
Photo of Mel Wacks by Carla Acevedo-Blumenkrantz, courtesy of The Jewish Journal.
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