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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Schneider, trustee and benefactor, dies at 93

Published: December 7, 2012
Section: Features

Irving Schneider, an influential trustee whose generous donations extended not only to the funding of the Irving Schneider and Family Building at the Heller School, but to an international scope through the creation of a premier children’s medical center in Israel, died on Nov. 23. He was 93.

Former President Jehuda Reinharz said Schneider “made it possible for Heller to expand into first-rate facilities,” further stating, “all kinds of amenities now make it possible to do research in a very powerful way.” Schneider funded the creation of the Irving Schneider and Family Building, which opened in 2006, in addition to implementing The Schneider Institutes for Health Policy.

Professor Stuart Altman (HS), and former dean of the Heller School, recalled his initial interactions with Schneider, discovering their mutual interest in the field of health care and in particular children’s health while attending regular board meetings. Recognizing the transformative influence of the Irving Schneider and Family Building, Altman revealed that the addition not only permitted the creation of new classrooms and educational opportunities, but altered the research process itself, fostering the interaction of staff members within a unified space.

Commenting on his experiences while working alongside Schneider on a professional level, Altman described him as generous yet strong, explaining, “you knew the way he felt and you knew he would hold you to high standards.” Schneider further served as a member and eventually the vice chair of the Board of Trustees for many years before being named trustee emeritus in 1995.

Beyond his remarkable generosity to the Heller School, Schneider’s dedication to the field of health care transcended his involvement at Brandeis, becoming manifest at a global level and bearing international implications. Having previously created the Schneider Children’s Hospital at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, Schneider recognized the need for similar facilities abroad. Alongside his wife Helen, who passed in 2001, Schneider constructed the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel in Petach Tikvah, which opened to the public in 1992. Reinharz recognizes the institution as “probably the best children’s hospital in the Middle East.”

According to Altman, Schneider was deeply committed to the facility, regularly traveling to Israel to witness its progress. Having visited the center himself, Altman describes it as a phenomenal institution, noting the truly international focus of the hospital. Rather than solely being available for the treatment of Jewish children, the hospital serves patients of many nationalities and countries of origin, including but not limited to children from Jordan, the Palestinian authority and Africa. Altman noted this attribute of the medical center, recalling the multiple written translations ranging from Hebrew to Arabic and English present throughout the hospital.

Noting the significance of the medical center not only upon health care services in the region, but also through its influence upon the political atmosphere, Reinharz said Schneider “was very proud that in addition to saving children’s lives, it was really contributing to quiet peace between Israel and its neighbors.” Reinharz explained that the gratitude of parents whose children were treated by the facility aided in easing tensions and perpetuating peace between the distinct regions of the Middle East. According to Altman, Schneider bore a strong interest in fostering bonds, displaying the desire to link activities of the Heller School with health care involvement in Israel.

As a trustee to the University and a generous benefactor abroad, Altman said that Schneider’s influence will prevail despite his passing, leaving a lasting legacy upon the Heller School and the Brandeis Community.

“Irving was not easy to get to know, but once he became your friend, he was very loyal, he supported you, he would stand up for you, he was the kind of person you’d want to next to you,” Reinharz said. He describes Schneider as possessing “a heart of gold,” as evidenced by his support to numerous institutions across the United States and Israel.

Originally born in Brooklyn, Schneider attended the City College of New York. In addition to his involvement at Brandeis, he pursued a career in real estate in New York, having served as the co-chair and chief operating officer at Helmsley-Spear.

Schneider is survived by his daughters Mindy ’75 and Lynn, who serves on the Heller Board of Overseers, as well as four grandchildren.