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1979 Horatio Alger Award Winner

Shepard Broad*

Chairman, Retired
American Savings & Loan Association

"The more selfish we are, the more difficult it is to reach our destinies."

Born in Pinsk, Russia, into an orthodox Jewish family, Shmuel Bobrowicz, lost his mother at age three and became an orphan at 10, when his father died in World War I. He and his younger brother somehow survived the German occupation of his city and the hostilities between the Poles and the Bolsheviks that followed. His American uncle offered to sponsor his entry into the United States, arranging for steerage passage from Antwerp via Warsaw. To get there, the 13-year-old boy jumped a freight train in the dark, only to be thrown off at daybreak by a railroad official.

He finally made his way to Antwerp and, after a three-week voyage, arrived in New York. He was greeted by a relieved uncle and a hostile aunt. "She was very unhappy to have me there," he says. It took two years, but he managed to change his aunt's attitude toward him. He's proud that, after his aunt and uncle divorced, he took care of her until the day she died. "It's important to repay people for what they did for you," he says.

His uncle gave his young nephew a new name, Shepard Broad, and enrolled him in school. Because he spoke only Yiddish, he was assigned to a third grade class. "I hated it. I couldn't wait to get out of there," he says. "The kids made fun of me." Within a year, however, he was able to attend high school; and seven years after he spoke his first word of English, he earned a law degree from New York Law School. "When you've got no money, and nothing except a rather decent head on your shoulders, the thing to do is to use your head," he says.

Broad practiced law in New York for several years and then became enchanted with Florida while vacationing there. In 1947, he acquired 250 acres of swamp land between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and founded the town of Bay Harbor Islands, a development of two islands that supports 5,000 residents. He served as mayor of Bay Harbor Islands for 26 years, until stepping down at age 70.

Long active in Jewish affairs, Broad was one of 17 American Jewish leaders who met secretly with David Ben Gurion in 1945 to discuss the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Touched and horrified by stories of the Holocaust and determined that Jews should have a homeland of their own, Broad and the others pledged "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor," he says.

In 1988, Broad retired as chairman of the executive committee of American Savings & Loan Association in Miami, which he founded in 1950 with $7,500. American Savings & Loan Association had grown to become one of Florida's largest thrift institutions. He continued to work in his office each day well into his nineties. A long-time trustee of the Law School of Nova University in Ft. Lauderdale, the school changed its name in 1989 and is now known as the Shepard Broad Law Center.

When asked about success, Broad once said, "You have to be giving to achieve your desires."

* Deceased