In Remembrance: Barry Silverstein ’57LLB Died on February 5 2020

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Barry Silverstein passed away at home on February 5, 2020, surrounded by friends and family. He was 86. Born in Brooklyn during the Great Depression, Barry always believed he was destined for greatness. From an early age, he displayed a tenacious work ethic, studying late into the night in a closet to earn the best grades possible, and working as much as he could, reselling old Brooklyn Dodgers programs and unloading freight cars. He began lifting weights when he was 11 years old, decades before weightlifting became a popular pasttime. Barry’s love of nature also began early—he would fondly recall jumping the fence of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to find solitude in an overcrowded city. He attended Erasmus High School in Brooklyn and talked his way into early admission at Cornell University.  After realizing that he could earn a degree while seeing the sunshine, he transferred and graduated from the University of Florida in 1954. Turning down a full scholarship from Harvard to attend Yale Law School, he graduated from Yale Law School as a member of the Yale Law Review in 1957.

Barry’s career began with early leveraged-buyout pioneer Derald Ruttenburg in Chicago. He married his first wife, Lois Bennett, and they had three children. After making partner and retiring from the buyout business at age 31, Barry moved to Gainesville, Florida, and became a law professor at the University of Florida. As a professor he was known for his penetrating mind, keen intellect, immense creativity, and high standards. 

In the mid-1960s, after recognizing the extraordinary business opportunity of cable television, Barry embarked upon yet another career. In partnership with Steve McVoy and Dennis McGillicuddy, he launched Coaxial Communications, and built cable television systems throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and South. Family and friends recall Barry’s unrivaled capacity to see into the future: as early as the 1970s he predicted that one day we would be able to watch any movie at the push of a button from the comfort of our homes.

In 1975, Barry found the love of his life and his soulmate, Trudy Meeks. They met and their lives were forever changed. Trudy was his wife and beloved partner of 45 years, and was integral to his spiritual, emotional, and business efforts, sharing a deep love and dynamic pursuit of the examined life. Theirs was a true partnership that nurtured their two children, as well as the lives of people they believed would impact the world.

Barry retired again in the late 1990s, remaining a visionary both in his work and through his passionate curiosity. He continued to invest, to explore through voracious reading and befriending great minds, and to travel the world with Trudy. 

Throughout his life, Barry turned his empathy, vision, strength, and good fortune towards helping others. An avowed philanthropist, he supported those fostering “the imagination of the world,” empowering individuals and organizations that he believed would help people become healthier and more fully realized. Barry was an early and significant supporter of nanotechnology, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and social entrepreneurship. Organizations he supported include the Mind and Life Institute, Florida Studio Theatre’s Youth Endowment, XPRIZE Foundation, and Roger Fisher’s Harvard Negotiation Project. The family foundation that he established continues his legacy of generosity, curiosity, and commitment to the human capacity for change.

Barry spent his 80s walking the beautiful forests of the Pacific Northwest and communing with the trees. He loved singing along while Trudy played his favorite songs on the ukulele, watching Star Trek, and being with his family. After a lifetime of achievement, of holding himself to impossibly high standards, and searching for the key to happiness, he spent his final years in loving presence and in the presence of love.

Barry is survived by his wife Trudy; his children Mark (Margaret), Susan (John), Thomas (Suzanne), Jake (Meghan), and Molly (Michael); grandchildren Anna, Ben, Max, Zak, Bennett, William, and Yul; and his brother, Edwin (Rina).

—Submitted by the family.

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