Irving Schneider, dedicated trustee, dies at 93

Support of the Heller School helped turn it into a nationally known center for health-care research

Irving Schneider

Irving Schneider, P’75, H’83, a Brandeis trustee for nearly a quarter-century whose generous support of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management helped turn it into a nationally known center for health-care research, died on Nov. 23 in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 93.

Schneider was a member of the Brandeis Board of Trustees from 1970-94, served as vice chair from 1971-83 and 1987-93, and was made a trustee emeritus in 1995. He also helped organize Brandeis fundraising activities in Palm Beach for many years. Schneider joined the Heller Board of Overseers in 1991.

One of the University’s most generous supporters, he funded construction of the $15 million Irving Schneider and Family Building at the Heller School, which opened in 2006. He also established the school’s Schneider Institutes for Health Policy (Institute for Behavioral Health, Institute on Healthcare Systems and Institute for Global Health and Development).

In honor of his extraordinary service to Brandeis, the University presented him with an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1983.

“Irving Schneider was passionate about Brandeis University in general and the Heller School in particular,” Brandeis President Fred Lawrence said. “He embraced the Heller School’s mission – knowledge advancing social justice – and generously supported the pioneering work being done there. May his memory be a blessing.”

Brandeis President Emeritus Jehuda Reinharz, PhD’72, who worked closely with Schneider during his time as Brandeis provost (1991-94) and president (1994-2010), called him a “tough guy on the outside with a heart of gold.” They first met in 1983 when Reinharz and his wife, Shula Reinharz, MA’69, PhD’77, the Jacob S. Potofsky Professor of Sociology, served as Schneider’s hosts when he received an honorary degree from Brandeis.

“Irving was enormously generous to Brandeis, as he was to a multitude of causes in New York and Israel,” Reinharz recalled. “He was interested in health issues and helping people. Irving was enormously proud of the fact that the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, which he built in Petach Tikvah, served all children of the Middle East. Jewish children lay in beds side by side with Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian and other children from the entire region, and all received the same superior care.”

At Schneider’s urging, Reinharz visited the hospital and discovered that the doctors there had saved the life of his wife’s cousin. “I remember when I came back and told Irving the story that he cried,” Reinharz said.

Reinharz was hiking Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain (3,209 feet), when Schneider informed him that he would be funding construction of the Schneider building, one of the largest gifts in Brandeis history. “He found me on the top of the mountain,” Reinharz remembered. “It was extremely appropriate because I was very high already even before I heard the wonderful news.”

Stuart Altman, P’92, H’91, the Sol C. Chaikin Professor of National Health Policy and Heller’s former dean, said Schneider believed strongly in the research being conducted at the school.

“His passion really was for healthcare, and he was very pleased with the activities we were doing to improve the quality and efficiency of the health-care system,” said Altman, who first met Schneider about 30 years ago. “Without him, we would not be one of the premier institutions in our country.”

Schneider was born in Brooklyn, graduated from Boys High School and received his degree from the City College of New York in 1939. He was a leader in the real estate industry in New York and served as co-chair and chief operating officer at Helmsley-Spear, where he worked for more than 50 years.

In addition to Brandeis and the hospital in Israel, his philanthropic affiliations included the Schneider Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, N.Y.; the Long Island Jewish Medical Center; UJA-Federation of New York; City College; the Jewish Communal Fund and United Israel Appeal.

His daughters, Mindy ’75 and Lynn, are actively involved with Brandeis. Mindy has been a member of the Brandeis Arts Council since 2008 and has served on her class Reunion committees; Lynn sits on the Heller Board of Overseers. Both generously support Brandeis.

In addition to his daughters, Schneider leaves four grandchildren, Jeremiah, Max, Katie and Jake.  His wife, Helen, P ’75, died in 2001.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Nov. 26 at Central Synagogue, 652 Lexington Ave.
at East 55th Street, New York.

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