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J. Victor Samuels ’64

June 14, 2020, in Houston, Texas.

A seventh-generation Jewish Texan, Vic was born in Corsicana and moved to his lifelong home of Houston when he was only six months old. He famously got his first job at age six and worked continuously for the following 69 years. He was a star athlete at Lanier Junior High and Bellaire High School, and was always proud of his accomplishments on the football field and baseball diamond.

He went to college at Brandeis University, where he loved his study of history (including a class taught by Eleanor Roosevelt), served as senior class president, and met his life partner, Barbara (Bobbi) Greenfield Samuels ’64, whom he married a week after their graduation from Brandeis. The couple then headed to Portland where both Vic and Bobbi earned Master of Arts in Teaching degrees. Bobbie eventually became a university professor. But after a frustrating year of teaching history on Long Island, Vic decided to enter the world of business, and the couple moved to Houston, which was booming.

Beginning his business career at Houston Corrugated Box, Vic spent the next 50 years creating, building, and managing four substantial businesses that employed thousands of employees: Houston Terminal Warehouse, Leedo Manufacturing, Leedo Furniture, and Victory Packaging. He was a risk taker, willing to bet it all. But Vic was also a strategic thinker, operator, and negotiator who led his businesses to tremendous success and took pride in his role as mentor to many young professionals.

But Vic spent only about a third of his time building companies. Devoted to a true work/life balance, he divided his time evenly between business, community, and family. Repairing the world was a cornerstone of his Judaism, learned from his parents. Upon accepting one of the dozens of awards he received in his life, Vic explained, “Those of us fortunate to have excess energy and time after taking care of life’s essentials, define our lives by what we choose to do with our ‘nonwork’ time—the rest of our lives. What do we dedicate ourselves to? Are we self-indulgent or do we define ourselves by repairing the world and completing creation? We are what we commit ourselves to. We have a responsibility to make the world a better place.”

Among his many community involvements, Vic was a leader in Citizens for Good Schools, a diverse group of young leaders that took over the Houston Independent School District Board to effect peaceful, productive, and thoughtful desegregation of area schools. He was also engaged with the Leo Baeck Education Center, Houston Achievement Place, the Jewish Community Center, and the School of Social Work at the University of Houston. His legacy continues with the Samuels Family Foundation, which he and Bobbi created in 2015. The Samuels were also generous supporters of Reed.

Vic always found time for his family among his other endeavors, coaching Little League teams, attending performances, and always making it home for family dinners. Home was centered on the children’s activities. In addition to Bobbi, Vic is survived by his three sons, Ben, Josh, and Jeremy

Appeared in Reed magazine: March 2018

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