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Maurice Deane, businessman, law school graduate, dies at 93

Hofstra University's law school was named for graduate

Hofstra University's law school was named for graduate Maurice A. Deane after he donated $20 million to the school. Credit: Hofstra University

On his way to work, Maurice Allen Deane heard Peggy Lee's song "Is that All There Is?" on his car radio and pulled over to the side of the road, pondering what he wanted to do in life.

That was 1976, Deane told Newsday, when he was the president of Endo Laboratories Inc. in Garden City, earning a six-figure salary.

Two years later, Deane began attending the Hofstra University Law School, which changed its name in 2011 to Maurice A. Deane School of Law after the alumnus gifted the university with $20 million.

The former pharmaceutical executive and philanthropist died on April 9 of pneumonia in his Manhattan home, according to his family. He was 93.

Born on Nov. 13, 1926, in Newark, Deane was the president and chief executive of Endo, a family-run pharmaceutical company he started working for in 1950 after marrying his wife, Barbara, according to his family. DuPont acquired the company in 1969, and Deane stepped down in 1977.

After the roadside episode reminded him of his desire to become a lawyer, Deane went to law school at Hofstra in 1978 at the age of 51. He graduated first in his class three years later, receiving awards for both constitutional law and evidence.

Even before his pursuit of a law degree, Deane had a zest for learning.

At the age of 16, Deane went to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to study bachelor's degree chemistry, according to his family. He also earned a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

During his first year in law school, Deane enrolled in a secretarial school in Great Neck to learn how to type, Newsday reported. At one point, he studied medicine for six months before deciding it was not the profession for him.

"Learning for learning's sake was so exciting for me," Deane said in 1986 after endowing Hofstra with a gift of more than $150,000 to fund a professorship of constitutional law.

Although he passed the bar, Deane never practiced law after graduation, Newsday reported. He instead returned to the business world and became the president of Bama Equities Inc., an investment and capital venture company in Great Neck.

“He was a very astute businessman and a real leader,” said Jerome Davidson, former rabbi of Great Neck's Temple Beth-El, where Deane served as a trustee. “He was a tall, handsome fellow, but his spirit was what motivated other people because he had a lot of energy and conviction about important matters.”

Davidson, who knew Deane for more than four decades, described him as a principled leader who was warm and modest with a sense of self-effacing humor.

“He was not the kind of person who would just sit back, join up and be an observer,” said Davidson, 87, of Manhattan. “His influence on so many others was admirable and uplifting. He made the world better.”

Deane is survived by his wife, Barbara, and his three children, Leland Deane, Gary Deane and Jill Deane Sheppard.

“Hofstra University today is a far better place for his dedication and more than 30 year involvement with us … as a student, as a leader, as a donor and as an involved alumnus,” Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz said in a statement.

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