Trustee Robert Shapiro '52, a member of the University's first graduating class, passed away Jan. 6 at the age of 81 after battling cancer for a year, according to a Jan. 7 campuswide email sent by University President Frederick Lawrence and Chairman of the Board Malcolm Sherman.

"Robert was a man with a generous spirit who embodied the values of Brandeis in so many ways," Lawrence and Sherman wrote in the email. Lawrence could not be reached by press time for further comment.

Shapiro, the son of founding Trustee Abraham Shapiro, was involved with the University throughout his life. According to the email, Shapiro served as a reunion organizer, donor, fundraiser, president's councilor, fellow and finally as a trustee in 1979.

Along with his wife Valya (Kazes) Shapiro '61, whom he met during his time at Brandeis, Shapiro supported a number of University initiatives, such as the construction of the Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex and the Robert and Valya Shapiro Endowment for Sephardic and East European Jewish Studies.

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Senior Vice President of Institutional Advancement Nancy Winship, who was Shapiro's neighbor and also worked with him at Brandeis for 18 years, wrote in an email to the Justice, "In my first years here, when fundraising was difficult and Brandeis was in a precarious financial situation, Robert was always there for his alma mater, generous with both his time and his financial resources."

Shapiro was also involved in Jewish and philanthropic organizations. He had served on the boards of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Temple Israel of Boston, the Boston Association for the Blind and the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association, according to a Jan. 7 BrandeisNOW press release.

"Robert was a kind, gentle, modest man whose deeds were great but his interest in taking credit for them miniscule. He genuinely cared about people and their well-being," Winship wrote in her email.

In an email to the Justice, Lawrence wrote, "He will be remembered by all who were privileged to meet him as a man of kindness, decency and an enormous generosity of spirit."

Shapiro is survived by his wife, two sons, Bram and Steven, and five grandchildren.

Editor's Note: This is an updated version of an article posted online on Jan. 6. 

—Sara Dejene contributed reporting.