Remembering Phyllis Sandler (1940-2023)

Monday, Jan 08, 2024

We are saddened to announce the recent passing of Phyllis Sandler, visionary philanthropist, devoted family matriarch, and beloved namesake of the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work.

Phyllis was an avid believer in the power of social workers to change our world for the better, and she recognized and celebrated the tremendous role they play in society. She also recognized that nearly 65% of our social work students rely on financial aid to achieve their dream of entering the profession and positively impacting the lives of others. In 2010, Phyllis launched the annual Phyllis Sandler Heart of Social Work to celebrate the social work profession, honor the impact social workers have in our communities, and raise much-needed funds to support scholarships for Florida Atlantic social work students. This year will certainly be an extra special occasion as we celebrate Phyllis’ life and legacy and 13 years of the Phyllis Sandler Heart of Social Work, which has raised more than $500,000 in scholarship support to date.

In 2017, Phyllis and her husband Harvey, who passed away in 2020, donated $7 million to name the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work. Their generous endowment provided resources to attract renowned faculty and high-achieving students who have positioned the school as a rising leader among its peers and a beacon of academic excellence. In addition, their gift funded the much-needed renovations and expansion of school facilities and paved the way for the Robin Rubin Center for Happiness and Life Enhancement, founded by their daughter, Robin Rubin, MSW.

Improvements made to the school through the Sandler’s support enabled us to increase course offerings, facilitate collaborative programs, engage in additional research, and expand multidisciplinary offerings – resulting in a 28% increase in our bachelor’s and master’s programs and contributing to the Master of Social Work program earning a top spot in the 2023 U.S. News and World Report graduate program rankings.

The Sandler Family's lasting impact is broadly felt throughout Boca Raton and its surrounding communities through the Phyllis & Harvey Sandler Center at the Levis JCC; the Harvey & Phyllis Sandler Cancer Pavilion, Phyllis Sandler Center for Living Well, and the Sandler Medical Plaza at Boca Raton Regional Hospital; and the many other testaments to their immense generosity. Phyllis and Harvey were also members of The Jewish Federation’s Ketubah Society, whose Sandler Family Major Gifts Event was named in their honor.

We are profoundly grateful for Phyllis’ unwavering belief that we are making the world a better place by educating and training social workers devoted and committed to the service of those who are most vulnerable in our society. The Sandler’s legacy of giving makes so much of what we do and who we are possible, and we will be forever thankful for their support.

Our hearts and prayers are with the Sandler children, Robin Rubin (husband, Gary), Amy Ross (husband, David), Larry Schnurmacher (wife, Andrea), Ricky Sandler (wife, Melissa), and Andrew Sandler (wife, Aurily), as well as the 17 Sandler grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

The Sandler Family asks that memorial donations be made to the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work. To celebrate Phyllis’ life and legacy with a gift of support, please click here.