Friedman during the WEF
Friedman was born on July 20, 1953 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Margaret Blanche (née Phillips) and Harold Abe Friedman. Harold, who was vice president of a ball bearing company, United Bearing, died of a heart attack in 1973, when Tom was nineteen years old. Margaret, who served in the United States Navy during World War II and studied Home Economics at the University of Wisconsin, was a homemaker and a part-time bookkeeper. Margaret was also a Senior Life Master duplicate bridge player, and died in 2008. Friedman has two older sisters, Shelly and Jane.
From an early age, Friedman, whose father often took him to the golf course for a round after work, wanted to be a professional golfer. He played a lot of sports, and became serious about tennis and golf. He caddied at a local country club and in 1970 caddied for professional golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez when the US Open came to town.
Friedman is Jewish. He attended Hebrew school five days a week until his Bar Mitzvah, then St. Louis Park High School, where he wrote articles for his school's newspaper. He became enamored with Israel after a visit there in December 1968, and he spent all three of his high school summers living on Kibbutz HaHotrim, near Haifa. He has characterized his high school years as "one big celebration of Israel's victory in the Six-Day War."
Friedman studied at the University of Minnesota for two years, but later transferred to Brandeis University and graduated summa cum laude in 1975 with a degree in Mediterranean studies. Friedman later taught a class in economics at Brandeis in 2006, and was a commencement speaker there in 2007.
After graduating from Brandeis, he attended St Antony's College at the University of Oxford as a Marshall Scholar, earning an M.Phil. in Middle Eastern studies.
Friedman's wife, Ann (née Bucksbaum), a native of Marshalltown, Iowa, is a graduate of Stanford University and the London School of Economics. She is the daughter of real estate developer Matthew Bucksbaum. They were married in London on Thanksgiving Day 1978 and live in Bethesda, Maryland. The couple has two daughters, Orly (b. 1985) and Natalie (b. 1988).