Harvey Sandler: Gifts From the Heart

One of Boca Raton’s leading citizens, Harvey Sandler, died on New Year’s Day at age 77. John Shuff, a longtime friend, wrote the following My Turn column about Mr. Sandler a few years ago; Boca magazine is reposting it today as a tribute.

Game on! Christmas and Chanukah are upon us. Familiar lyrics resonate from holiday celebrations: “Tis the season to be jolly…” or “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel…” Party invitations arrive, boat parades twinkle, gifts are wrapped and palm trees are ablaze in lights. People have house parties, and friends swarm your kitchen, leaving what we used to call hostess gifts here and there—the recycled fruitcake in a tin can (odds are it would be better served as a door stopper) or the bottle of Cabernet that you swear was re-gifted from your wine collection the previous year.

Those are fun gifts, a thank-you from friends and family. But another kind of giving this holiday season is the generosity that is beyond the means of most people—outreach, philanthropy, community support. Very often these are gestures driven by peer pressure, but I like to think most of the time giving back comes from living out that old adage, “If you do well, you must do good.”

Which brings me to a couple that exemplifies that rule: Harvey and Phyllis Sandler, longtime residents of Boca Raton who have given millions to local institutions. Harvey’s giving was motivated by an event 25 years ago that he thanks both God and the medical community for: the removal of his brain tumor. More recently, Phyllis Sandler is still recovering with the help of the Marcus Neuroscience Institute at the Boca hospital from a devastating aneurism that left her in a coma for 40 days.

The Sandlers have donated millions to Boca Raton Regional Hospital (hence the Harvey and Phyllis Sandler Cancer Pavilion), Florida Atlantic University (the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work) and the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, the second-largest federation of its kind in the country. Their Foundation has touched the lives of many people in need and has enhanced the institutions it has supported.

I first met Harvey in 1977. He was the head of Goldman Sachs Communication Industries Group. In that capacity he covered my company, Capital Cities/ABC, formerly Capital Cities Communications. I was the go-to person for financial information. He called on me, its CFO, for updates on how the company was doing. But it was never that simple. Harvey Sandler put me through the hoops, trying to get an edge on his fellow analysts. On occasion I felt like I was being interrogated by the cops in a sweaty basement back room. Harvey was aggressive, tenacious, very quick on the trigger and always did his homework.

Tom Murphy, our chairman and CEO, considered Harvey one of the best—if not the best—broadcast analysts on Wall Street, a high compliment from one of the best CEOs in the U.S. In 1979 Harvey left Goldman and, using his vast knowledge of the broadcast industry, formed Sandler Capital Management. And the rest is history. He did very well and has done much good for our local Boca Raton institutions. I’m glad our paths crossed many years ago in New York, and then in Boca. I’m proud of what he has done for our community, and I salute the Sandlers now, in this season that celebrates true giving from the heart.