The Honorable Joseph B. Gildenhorn


On Oct. 21, the Honorable Joseph B. Gildenhorn of Washington, D.C., passed away at the age of 94. He was born on September 17, 1929 in Washington, D.C. to the late Oscar and Celia Gildenhorn. Beloved husband of Alma; devoted father of Carol Winer (Michael) and Michael Gildenhorn (Cathy); loving brother of the late Blanche Speisman; cherished grandfather of Matthew Winer (Annie Berger), Amanda Moskowitz (Adam), Edward Gildenhorn (Ysabella) and Elissa Gildenhorn; and adoring great-grandfather of Max Moskowitz and Danielle Winer.

Joseph “Joe” grew up in Washington, D.C. and attended Woodrow Wilson High School. He received a degree in business administration from the University of Maryland. It was there where he met the love of his life, Alma Lee Gross. He went on to earn a degree from Yale Law School, where he was a member of the editorial board of the Yale Law Journal. After law school he served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany. Upon returning to Washington, he worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Joe’s contributions to D.C. and to our country are numerous. He was a founding partner of The JBG Companies, a diversified real estate development and management company that has developed many of the significant office buildings, residential buildings, and hotels in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

In 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed Joe to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, where he served until 1993. From 2002 to 2013, Joe was appointed by President George W. Bush as Chairman of the Board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and continued to serve as Co-Chairman of the Wilson National Cabinet.

In addition, Joe served on the boards of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and the Council of American Ambassadors.

Joe was Chairman of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation Board of Trustees from 2008 to 2010 and endowed the University of Maryland’s Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies.

Joe received many awards and citations for his community service. Along with Alma, they were recognized as “Washingtonians of the Year.” They were also inducted into the University of Maryland Hall of Fame as the first couple to receive this prestigious award. In 2022, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from the University of Maryland in recognition of his years of public and community service.

Joe had numerous philanthropic interests, including the arts and healthcare. He treasured his involvement with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Additionally, he and Alma named the Gildenhorn Recital Hall at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland. He also was instrumental in the establishment of the Gildenhorn Institute for Bone and Joint Health at Sibley Memorial Hospital/John Hopkins Medicine.

Joe cared deeply about the Jewish community. He was a past President of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. He also served on the board of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Joe was an avid sports enthusiast and loved his Terps, Commanders and all Washington teams. He enjoyed golf and tennis at Woodmont Country Club and skiing in Aspen.

However, beyond his sporting pursuits, his greatest joy came from spending precious moments with family and friends. Joe was not only adored by his family but also held in high regard by everyone who knew him. His kindness, generosity, and inspirational presence left a lasting impact on those around him. Joe will always live in our hearts, and we will love him forever.

Memorial contributions may be made to University of Maryland College Park Foundation or Gildenhorn Institute of Sibley Memorial Hospital Foundation. Services entrusted to Sagel Bloomfield Danzansky Goldberg Funeral Care.

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