Date: 6/30/2011

SHEPARD BROAD HONORED: New York Law School Magazine, features the story and contributions of Shepard Broad and his family

As recently featured in an issue of New York Law School Magazine:

A Family Tradition: The Shepard Broad Foundation’s Continuing Legacy of Good Works and Generosity

Over bowls of steaming matzo ball soup and plates of fried chicken, noodle kugel, and lettuce and tomato salads, Ann Bussel and her brother Morris Broad used to sit at the dining room table and listen to the adult conversation. It was 1940s Miami, and their parents, the late Shepard Broad ’27 and Ruth Broad, discussed ideas, events, and politics with the stream of visitors who came for Shabbat dinner every Friday night. Those visitors ranged from World War II soldiers on leave to heads of state, such as Israel’s first Prim Minister, David Ben-Gurion, and major figures in business and the arts. It was an era of family dinners, and for the Broad children, it was a time to learn – from the conversation as well as their parents’ actions – about social responsibility.

“My parents taught us not just through words but through deeds,” Ann says. “They invited the soldiers because they felt these young people were serving our country with their lives. The least my parents felt they could do was serve them a home-cooked meal.”

From the simple act of sharing a dinner table, a family philosophy was born. Giving back became a way of life, and the Shepard Broad Foundation, administered by Ann, Morris, and Ann’s two children, has done just that, time and time again, to New York Law School. Their latest gifts include naming the Law School’s Shepard Broad Coffee Bar in the new building, as well as more than doubling the foundation’s existing scholarship fund for second-year Evening Division students. The foundation had already named the Law School’s Student Center in one of the older buildings and established the initial fund.
“He felt that whatever success he was given was on loan to him,” Morris says of his father, who was himself an Evening Division student at the Law School. “He said, ‘You’ll never find an armored car following a hearse.’ That was his way of saying you can’t take it with you, and what better thing can you do with your money than to thank the people and institutions that have helped you in your life?”

Naming the Shepard Broad Coffee Bar reflects Shepard’s deepest feelings about the nature of learning and community, his children say. Ann says that her father knew that people “don’t just learn in classrooms. They learn from each other outside the classroom as well. They connect and share over coffee, too.”

Morris concurs. After touring the new building and visiting the coffee bar with his wife, Anita, he says, “My father would have been absolutely thrilled to see the coffee shop. He always believed that great things can come from conversation. And what better place to converse and exchange ideas than a coffee bar?”

Born in 1906 in Pinsk, Russia, Shepard Broad was orphaned by the age of 10. An uncle in New York learned of Shepard’s plight and sent for him. The six-month journey brought him to Montreal instead of New York. The 13-year-old boy narrowly avoided deportation when Adolph Stark, the head of a Canadian organization that aided Jewish immigrants, intervened.

In New York, Shepard was placed in first grade because he couldn’t speak English. Just seven years later, in 1927, he graduated from New York Law School. While in law school, he worked during the day as a runner for a bank on Wall Street. After graduation, he began to practice law just as the Great Depression hit. Morris says his father devoted his thriving practice “to keeping people out of bankruptcy.”

A 1937 fishing trip with friends introduced Shepard to Florida, and he fell in love. By 1940, he, Ruth, and their two children had relocated – not without some trepidation on Ruth’s part.

“She said, ‘Why would you give up half a loaf for none at all?’” Morris recalls. “But my father convinced her that it would bring the family new opportunities, and they would not starve and freeze at the same time.”

Those opportunities included founding the law firm Broad and Cassel – today one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in Florida – in 1946, and creating the upscale community of Bay Harbor Islands, which Shepard developed by literally dredging the Biscayne Bay swamp. He also founded the American Savings & Loan Association of Florida, a public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange; it was sold in 1988 with $3 billion in assets. And in 1974, he established the Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Shepard’s career was marked by magnificent success and great fortune. Ironically, making money was never the main goal, both his son and daughter agree. “He did things in order to create things,” Ann Notes. “Money making was only ancillary to his desire to create – whether that was the law firm or Bay Harbor Islands or whatever project he undertook.”

One important creation was “a controlled base of clients for Broad and Cassel,” said Morris. “It was important for him to have a client base whose loyalty and trust he had earned.”

The crowning achievement of Shepard Broad’s career was his instrumental role in the creation of the State of Israel. David Ben-Gurion, who later became Israel’s first prime minister, called on Shepard and 18 other Jewish leaders to assist in the relocation of displaced persons and to help secure the existence of Israel.

“My father’s assignment was to purchase and equip boats that would bring Holocaust survivors to what was then Palestine,” Morris says. It was an important humanitarian act, but one that Shepard rarely discussed, he notes.

The Law School has recognized Shepard Broad’s extraordinary life in multiple ways: in 1977, the 50th anniversary of his graduation, he was awarded the Dean’s Medal; in 1993, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. In 2003, the Law School awarded him the President’s Medal of Honor, its highest honor, posthumously. When Shepard died in November 2001 at the age of 95, former Dean Harry H. Wellington said, “He was the kind of graduate who adds luster to our school. He exemplified so much of what the Law School stands for.”

“He had a great love for the law and sense of gratitude to the Law School,” Morris says. “He wanted to be a useful citizen and a good person more than anything. He once said if he could make a deal with the Lord, he would want to know the day of his death, so that all his worldly possessions, which were on loan to him, could be given away beforehand.”