Budgets and spreadsheets may be dry subjects, but Robert Shapiro not only excelled at them – guiding Northwell Health’s finances for three decades as the hospital grew into the powerhouse it is today – he looked out for people with uncommon modesty and generosity.
Here is just one example: Every Monday he gave his assistant his small bills, ones and fives, to give to the valet parking attendants, and in winter, "He would give her money and say, ‘Why don’t you go out and get them hats and gloves, it’s cold outside,’ " said his wife, Raweya. "He was very, very sweet."
His office door was always open; a top-scoring bowler, he accepted the maintenance staff’s invitation to bowl a season with them.
And individuals searching for the right doctor could count on him to help navigate the hospital.
"As a dedicated leader, mentor, and gifted finance professional, Bob was a kind, humble and compassionate person who was beloved by his staff and colleagues," Northwell said in an obituary.
Shapiro was such an accomplished professional and yet so self-effacing, his widow said, that asked what he did for a living, he would simply reply "Finance" or say he was an accountant. In actuality he was Northwell's chief financial officer and an executive vice president.
Said Northwell: "From the deregulation of hospital reimbursements to the creation of our ever growing and evolving health system, Bob laid down the financial foundation needed for our continued expansion of providing the best healthcare to our communities."
"His innovative ideas and strategies earned him respect on Wall Street, along with helping Northwell earn A-level bond ratings from the nation's three largest credit agencies," it added.
Two rare diseases claimed the life of the Plainview native on Jan. 29 at 66; he had retired in 2017 and he and his wife moved to Syosset from Old Bethpage.
Despite such a demanding role, Shapiro made sure to attend his two children's school events — and take them to playgrounds and other fun excursions, like feeding ducks at a local pond.
And he was a prankster: after some friends made off with a street sign, he left them a message, supposedly from the police, demanding its return, his widow recalled.
He met his future wife at Binghamton University, where they both transferred as sophomores — when his success in the buttoned-down accounting world might not have been instantly apparent.
The woman he would ask to marry in a McDonald's after a three-month courtship — Shapiro put himself through school — first saw him lugging his albums and stereo into the dorm on a hot summer day, back when he sported long hair and jeans and looked a little scruffy.
He later offered to help her figure out which credits the university would accept, but the two struggled a bit to understand each other. After she left his dorm room, Raweya recalled, "He told his roommate that’s one girl I want nothing to do with."
Music was always a part of his life, from The Doors and Allman Brothers at Binghamton and then Frank Sinatra, classical music — and often back-to-back Broadway shows.
Professional honors Shapiro received include a 2018 award from the New York metropolitan chapter of the Hospital Financial Management Association and a lifetime achievement award from the Long Island Advance in 2012.
Shapiro also is survived by his daughter, Laura Shapiro Kern of Commack, and her two children, and his son David of Old Bethpage.