MICHAEL R. SANDLER
1940 - 2020
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SANDLER, Michael R. Entrepreneur for the Public Good Michael Robert Sandler, formerly of Weston and Boston, Massachusetts, passed away at 80 years old on December 29, 2020, from complications related to Alzheimer's Disease. Born in Portland, Maine, on June 6, 1940, Mike was the younger son of Maurice and Dorothy (Alman) Sandler. He is survived by his beloved wife of 58 years, Ellen Cooper Sandler, whom he met when they were both studying at the University of Pennsylvania. He also is survived by his three daughters; Marcy (Jim Janover), Susan (Mike Brennan) and Amy, for whom he named his company "MSA"; his four grandchildren, William and Kate Janover and Jake and Dan Brennan; his older brother Jerry (Kathy), his niece and nephews; and countless people whose lives he touched. A graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Mike served as a University Trustee and Overseer of its School of Arts and Sciences. He organized his reunion class's fundraising effort that installed on campus the "Ben [Franklin] on the Bench" statue, which has become a university landmark. Franklin's famous quotation, "Energy and Persistence Conquer All Things" embodied the way Mike led his life. Mike was a lifelong entrepreneur who built and sold several businesses, including Marsan Industries (which merged with ITT Corporation), Auto Parts Distributors (which was sold to Rite-Aid Corporation) and Eduventures. A lifetime member of the CEO organization YPO, Mike served in key leadership roles including Chapter Chair, Education Chair and WPO Board member. He also served as a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School, where he conducted research on the intersection of business, government and education. Considered one of the founding fathers of the education industry, Mike was a founder of A Different September Foundation, an organization that supported the Boston University/Chelsea Public Schools Partnership. He served as executive-in-residence at the University of Southern California, a Visiting Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, President of the Education Industry Foundation, and a Senior Advisor at The Parthenon Group. He also authored the book: Social Entrepreneurship in Education: Private Ventures for the Public Good. Also known as "Fenway Mike," he was a champion of all things Boston. From the Public Library to the Public Garden, the Back Bay to Beacon Hill, he left an enduring legacy on the people, places and spaces of his chosen hometown. An avid Boston sports fan, for some 40 years he would have been spotted at Red Sox home games seated in Section 33, and on TV whenever a lefty was at the plate. In honor of his 70th birthday, he threw out the first pitch at his beloved Fenway Park. Most important, Mike was loved by everyone who knew him: his family, friends, colleagues, the young entrepreneurs he mentored — all those whose lives he touched with his generous spirit, can-do attitude and unique way of making everyone around him feel special. If you needed tickets to a sold-out game, wise advice, a life-changing conversation, or someone to light up a room, Mike was the go-to guy so many went to. Mike handled his illness with extraordinary grace and optimism. We are grateful to his executive assistant Sherry Campbell for being like family for decades, and for the compassionate support he received from program staff and caregivers who honored his leadership skills and creativity, his love of family and his dignity through the course of his disease. Due to current health restrictions, private services were held. A celebration of his life will be scheduled at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory to the Penn Fund at the University of Pennsylvania or the charity of your choice are welcome.


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Published in Boston Globe from Dec. 30, 2020 to Jan. 3, 2021.
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12 entries
January 17, 2021
Ellen-Michael and I were so sad and shocked to hear about the loss of Mike. Although we hadn't seen him and you for a while, I always expected to see his - and your smiling face at some gathering. I will remember Mike when he was a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government and was proud of him and felt we were colleagues - always trying to make a difference. He certainly did! and the Ben Franklin quote describes what I remember about him"Energy and Persistence conquer all things." Our deep condolences to you and your family.
Roberta Leis
Friend
January 12, 2021
Mike was one of the most extraordinary people I've had the pleasure of working with. He was remarkably generous. I got to know Mike while working for Business Week in Boston in the late 1990s. When this chapter of my life ended in 2006 (due to the growing financial strains in print journalism), Mike played a major role in helping me find a new position at the Kennedy School. This ultimately launched my second career in education reform. I also had the pleasure of attending Red Sox games with Fenway Mike. I will never forget his generosity, or his warm spirit.
Bill Symonds
Acquaintance
January 5, 2021
This is very sad to learn. Mike was a good friend, an engaged mentor, a generous philanthropist, a wonderful dinner companion, and an exceptional guide to all things Boston and UPenn. Like all of us, I shall miss him greatly.
Bill Bavin
Friend
January 5, 2021
Mike defined what "friend" means to me. Over the many years we knew each other (education entrepreneurs, education industry, education business, education events, education consulting) Mike was mentally, if not always physically, by my side. We'd spend countless hours on the phone, which seemed like minutes. We freely argued issues, ideas, tactics, and philosophies, and never seemed to tire of it. In the process we shared what we thought were great victories along with some ignoble defeats. I guess it is that casual, continuous connection to Mike that I miss most of all. He gave me much more than I gave him, and there is a palpable hole in my life left by Mike.
Gib Hentschke
Friend
January 5, 2021
Deeply saddened by this news. Mike was a true inspiration, a great collaborator, and a cherished friend. My love and condolences to Ellen, the girls, and their families.
Lenore Ealy
Friend
January 5, 2021
Ellen - so sorry to hear and read about Michael's passing. I was so fond of him and his passion for the arts and especially arts education. You both are true family to The Wang Center. Micheal was a mentor for me and it hard to believe but I am still the CEO of the Center entering into my 35th year! Our deepest condolences!

Arts Heal, Joe Spaulding

Josiah Spaulding
Friend
January 4, 2021
I met Mike in Baltimore in 2001- and he opened my eyes to the "education industry" he saw so much promise is. Mike helped cement my desire to work in the United States, at Eduventures, the company he founded. I remember many engaging lunches with Mike over the years, chewing over the latest developments. A titan of our industry- gone but not forgotten!
Richard Garrett
Friend
January 4, 2021
I was lucky and blessed to count Mike as a friend and mentor, and will miss his energy and enthusiasm for all things education and business. He was always generous with his time, and passionate about investing in people, and I am deeply grateful for the time we spent together.
Dave Hoverman
Friend
January 4, 2021
Oh my gosh, I am devastated. The most genteel, thoughtful, generous of intellect, time and talent... leaving education better as a result. He was a huge and formidable influence in my life and thousands of others. My heart goes out to Ellen, his daughters he bragged about always and the entire family. God Bless.
Jeanne Allen
Friend
January 4, 2021
Brings tears to my eyes. Mike was a big, passionate, solid soul. Big heart, expansive visionary, and a man with a purpose and intent to have impact on our society. I have many (many) fond memories. He made his mark and he is missed.....
Jon Carson
Friend
January 4, 2021
I am so sad to hear this news. Fenway Mike was a force. He could make things happen. When he enlisted me to the Education Industry Association, I really did not have time or band width, but he always managed to get me to do something effort without ever feeling persuaded. He always made you feel like the most important person in his world. At the celebration of the anniversary of Eduventures, he gifted me with a token of his favorite Fenway which remains on my desk as a treasure. I will miss his smile and laugh. Please let me know when you celebrate him. I would like to be regaled with all the stories which inevitably followed this giant. Blessings to all who loved him.
Mark DeFusco
December 30, 2020
Mike was a good friend to more people than most of us even know, an enthusiastic mentor and guide to those lucky enough to get his advice, a successful entrepreneur, a leader in the education industry he helped to define, a philanthropist, and loving son, husband, father and grandfather. No one could ever have a better friend and advisor---we were fortunate to be among them---as were other members of our family.
Martin and Wendy Kaplan
Friend
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