Alabama Academy of Honor


Marvin Engel

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2001, and updated in May 2013.



Marvin Engel was a well-known and respected leader in the Birmingham business community and in Alabama’s philanthropic circles.

A Birmingham native, he earned his B.S. degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942, and then entered the military. He served in the U.S. Army for three and a half years before being honorably discharged on December 7, 1945, as a first sergeant in the Signal Corps.

After military service he returned to Birmingham and joined his father, William P. Engel, in the family business – Engel Realty Company. At that time, he and his wife Ruth also took over leadership of the family foundation which his father had established. Through the years, the Engel Foundation has generously supported the Birmingham community, lending a helping hand to the arts, health, and education.

Upon the death of his father in 1973, Mr. Engel headed the family business with distinction until 1986 when he sold Engel Realty. At the age of 31, his contribution to the business community was recognized by a life membership in the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.

Even before his retirement, Mr. Engel was active in civic affairs. In the fifteen years since retirement, he has devoted his time to the betterment of his community and state by serving on boards and fundraising committees of a number of worthy organizations, including the Alabama Eye Institute, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Symphonic Association, Birmingham Museum of Art’s Art Fund, Birmingham Zoo, Kiwanis Club, Leadership Birmingham, and National Symphony Orchestra. He was also active in community religious affairs and was a board member and past President of Temple Emanu-El and of the Southeast Council of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

During his lifetime, Marvin Engel contributed time, energy, leadership, and financial support to business endeavors, educational and health causes, and the arts. He was named “Philanthropist of the Year” by the Birmingham chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals last year.

Mr. Engel’s reputation for fairness and integrity in the business community was richly deserved, and he has a firmly established legacy of civic mindedness and altruism.

Marvin Engel credited his father with being a role model of generosity. “My father always said, ‘You have to pay your civic rent,’ and I’ve tried to do that.” The greater Birmingham area would certainly agree that Marvin Engel has paid his rent in full, and many times over.

Marvin and Ruth Engel have two children, Barbara and Bill, and three grandchildren.

Marvin Engel passed waway on April 23, 2013.