VOICES FROM THE FIELDTHE IRC BLOG
Refugee Journeys: George Sarlo - Hungary, 1956
January 3, 2011 by The IRC
|George Sarlo Photo: Jim Gaffey|
"I was never hopeful of returning. After what happened during the fascist regime and the communist regime, I never considered Hungary as my home. In fact when people ask me where I am from, I always say I was born an American except in the wrong place."
- George Sarlo
George Sarlo is a venture capitalist and a philanthropist. He was born in 1938 in Hungary and grew up under fascist and communist regimes. When he was four years old, his father was taken away, never to be seen again.
In 1956 young Sarlo and his classmates at the Technical University of Budapest initiated a protest against the government. It quickly became the first armed uprising in a communist country. after the revolution was defeated by the invading Red army, he, his sister and her husband made their way to Austria, taking a circuitous four-day journey. In Vienna, they were accepted for resettlement as refugees in the United States.
Sarlo and his relatives settled in Los Angeles. His mother and stepfather fled Hungary a short time later and joined him there.
After earning a B.S. in electrical engineering at the University of Arizona and an M.B.A. at Harvard Business school, Sarlo worked as a security analyst and portfolio manager on Wall street.
He established Ashfield and Co., an investment management firm that grew to over $3 billion in assets and was sold to Old Mutual Insurance of South africa. Sarlo co-founded the venture capital firm Walden in 1974 and achieved a long and profitable career making investments in computer technology and semiconductors.
He also co-founded Walden International and Walden Israel, venture capital firms with over $1.5 billion in combined committed capital under management. They invest in high technology opportunities, primarily in Asia and Israel, respectively.
Sarlo has served as director of a number of private and publicly held corporations, including William D. Witter, mass merchandisers, Invivo, computer communications, Rasterops, Interlinq, Elantec and Rugged Digital. After establishing the Sarlo Foundation, he served on the boards of nonprofit organizations that include the International Rescue committee, American Jewish Joint Distribution committee, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the public broadcasting station KQeD in San francisco, and Interplast. He is currently an International Rescue Committee overseer and member of the Investment Committee.
The Sarlo Foundation continues to make grants to organizations active in human rights, education and health issues. since 2001, the Foundation has sponsored the Sarlo Foundation Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award, which is presented each October in San Francisco to five outstanding members of the IRC’s International and U.S. field staff.
Sarlo was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane letters degree by the University of San Francisco.
George Sarlo is one of 10 distinguished refugees who were honored by the International Rescue Committee at our 2010 Freedom Award Dinner in New York City. Check back each Monday for a new story of a refugee who has fled tyranny and persecution and who has made the most of the opportunity to begin again and thrive in the U.S. You can see all of the stories posted so far here.