The legacy of the late Professor David Grossman: ‘Helping to fix a broken world’

Senator Elizabeth Warren urges support for the David Abraham Grossman Fund for Social Justice at Harvard Law School

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Credit: David M. Barron/Oxygen Group PhotographyMassachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren delivered the keynote address during the David Abraham Grossman Fund for Social Justice Event.

On Saturday, September 10, family, friends, and colleagues of the late Harvard Law School Clinical Professor David Grossman gathered at HLS to celebrate his life, honor his community activism, and support his fight for social justice.

Grossman, who passed away in 2015 after a long battle with cancer, was a passionate and tireless advocate for underprivileged and marginalized people in Boston and beyond, particularly those being displaced from their homes through foreclosure.

An expert in housing law, he dedicated his career to fighting on behalf of struggling tenants, homeowners, and communities. As the managing attorney of the Housing Unit at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and later as the faculty director and managing attorney of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, Grossman fought for the rights of Bostonians in need, while mentoring and inspiring hundreds of law students at Harvard Law School to do the same.

As one of his former students, Sam Levine, said, “It’s easy to forget the impact the law has on ordinary people’s lives, especially people without the privileges we have. As a teacher and mentor, Dave never let his students forget.”

In honor of this commitment, Professor Grossman’s widow, Stacy Grossman, created the David Abraham Grossman Fund for Social Justice to support first-year lawyers from HLS dedicated to using the power of the law to advance social justice and effect positive community change.

David Grossman's family --Lev Grossman, Stacy Grossman and Shayna Grossman -- at the inaugural fundraiser for the David Abraham Grossman Fund for Social Justice at Harvard Law School, on September 10.

Credit: David M. Barron/Oxygen Group PhotographyDavid Grossman’s family — Lev Grossman, Stacy Grossman and Shayna Grossman — at the inaugural fundraiser for the David Abraham Grossman Fund for Social Justice at Harvard Law School, on September 10.

“It is an incredibly humbling feeling to have you here tonight,” Grossman said to the event’s more than 250 attendees, including HLS Dean Martha Minow and Senior Senator of Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, “as we remember and honor my late husband David Grossman and strive to build a [permanent] endowment to extend his professional legacy.”

Warren, a fierce advocate for social and economic justice, spoke at the event, delivering a speech that framed the current state of housing displacement in the US with the country’s history of financial consumer protection. She described the policies put in place in the early 20th century to protect low- and middle-class citizens, then compared them to the practices in place today, many of which, she argued, caused the housing crisis of 2008 and continue to live on in new forms.

“This is something that would make David Grossman furious,” she said. “It would move him to fight back. So I wanted to come here tonight and speak with people who would understand why we get furious and who will say, ‘I will stand up, and I’m going to make a difference.’

“I come here tonight because I am an optimist,” she continued. “I come here tonight because I believe that optimists see what is wrong, figure out a plan to fix it, and then just do their damndest to get out there and make the changes that we need to make. And I think that’s the best way to honor David Grossman.”

A video of Professor Grossman’s work, based on a 2008 interview, was shown during the event, including his response to a question about why he chose to do this kind of work: “Because I believe we have to do the right thing,” he replied. “That part of our job as people, and specifically as attorneys, is to help fix a broken world.”

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Credit: David M. Barron/Oxygen Group PhotographyDAG Fund Members: Alana Greer, Stacy Grossman, Alexa Shabecoff, Samuel Levine, Rachel Lauter, and Marielle Macher.

The inaugural DAG Fund fellowship, initially funded by HLS, was awarded to a recent HLS graduate, Joey Michalakes ’16, who represents Professor Grossman’s ideals and beliefs.  Michalakes will spend his fellowship term in the housing and employment units in Greater Boston Legal Services developing strategies to combat displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods in Greater Boston.

Every $55,000 raised by the David Abraham Grossman Fund will support an additional fellowship, and the fund’s ultimate goal is to raise $1 million to permanently endow a fellowship.

Continue Professor Grossman’s fight for social justice and learn from several former students and clients why the David Abraham Grossman Fund for Social Justice is crucial for the health of our communities.

View a video of the full event.