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Morris Silverman, 93; created prize for medical research

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Morris ''Marty" Silverman, a philanthropist who established the nation's richest prize for medical research and donated millions of dollars to causes in the Albany area and elsewhere, died Thursday. He was 93.

Mr. Silverman died at a hospital in Manhattan, where he lived and built the leasing company National Equipment Rental. He sold the company in 1984, using the $40 million proceeds to establish the Marty and Dorothy Silverman Foundation after his wife died a year later.

Mr. Silverman continued working regularly until his health faltered six weeks ago, said John Egan, president of the nonprofit Renaissance Corp. of Albany that Silverman founded in 1995. No official cause of death was given. ''He kind of wore out," Egan said.

In 2000, Mr. Silverman pledged $50 million to create the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research to be disbursed over the next century in annual awards worth $500,000. The largest medical research award in the United States, it is second in the world only to Sweden's $1.3 million Nobel.

The inaugural recipient was Dr. Arnold Levine for his work in helping identify a powerful cancer-fighting gene.

James Barba, president and chief executive of Albany Medical Center, once described Mr. Silverman as combining ''visionary character with a sort of little boy rascality."

Through his $300 million foundation, Mr. Silverman donated to academic, Jewish, veterans, and social causes, including a Holocaust museum in Houston, as well as housing for thousands of former Soviet Jews in Israel and programs to help neglected children and indigent seniors.

Governor George Pataki said the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center in Saratoga Springs was established with Mr. Silverman's support. He ordered the flag there lowered in his honor on Friday.

''I got into this dream and I let this dream carry me," Mr. Silverman told the Associated Press in a 2004 interview.

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