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Remembering Herb Sandler

The nation lost an extraordinary individual Wednesday in Herbert Sandler, a visionary and path-breaking philanthropist who achieved remarkable results. Herb and his life-partner and wife, the late Marion Sandler, played pivotal roles in starting such notable organizations as, among others, ProPublica, the Center for Responsible Lending, the Center for American Progress, and the Center for Equitable Growth. They played equally crucial roles in greatly increasing the capacity and impact of such organizations as the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Earthjustice, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Herb combined a long-term vision with a steely focus on what organizations need to do to become more effective in every sphere — from shaping policy to employing communications to building potent field networks to strengthening management and leadership. When Herb became your partner, he was far more than a generous donor. He provided invaluable insights into how grantees could become more effective champions of social and economic justice.

Herb also was kind, engaging, gentle, and fun to be with. Twice last year, my wife and I were fortunate to share long conversations with him over lunch that ranged from policy to politics to art to books, and he was consistently thoughtful, incisive, and provocative. I will miss these conversations greatly, just as I’ll miss our discussions about the challenges facing the country, how to tackle them, and how organizations like the Center can contribute — conversations that helped me enormously in my own work.

In Herb’s passing, we lost a towering individual who made our country a significantly better, fairer, and more humane place. But his and Marion’s legacy will endure in the organizations that they were instrumental in founding or strengthening, in the medical research they played such an important role in supporting, and in the example they set for engaged philanthropy.