Dr. Lenore Sandel, a lifelong educator, a champion of children’s literacy, a public-service trailblazer and the wife of former Rockville Centre Mayor Leonard Sandel, died on Sept. 14 after a long illness. She was 89.
Born on May 2, 1922, Lenore Dukoff, the daughter of Sadie and David Dukoff, grew up in Manhattan. She attended Julia Richman High School and Hunter College, and met her future husband through his sister, Marion, her college sorority sister.
The couple married in December 1942, when Leonard was in the Army, having left St. John’s Law School to volunteer during World War II. Lenore traveled with him during his stateside officer training, and their daughter, Susan, was born in October 1944 in Arkansas — 18 days before Leonard was shipped overseas to the European theater. He returned when Susan was nearly 2, and in late 1946 the family moved from Manhattan to the home in Rockville Centre where they have lived ever since.
Lenore Sandel was active in the National Girl Scouts and the PTA while working as a substitute teacher. She helped her husband in his scrap metal business in Lynbrook, and was eventually offered a job in the Lynbrook public schools. From there she took a position with the Rockville Centre Recreation Center’s summer program, after which she taught reading in the village’s elementary schools.
She also got involved in the National Council of Jewish Women and the Central Synagogue of Nassau County, serving as president of its sisterhood. Her tenure as the first female president of the reform congregation — from 1974 to 1976 — was a pioneering role at the time.
Sandel’s interest in education, meanwhile, led her to Hofstra University, where she joined the faculty in 1964 as a professor of reading after receiving a master’s degree in the subject in 1963. She and two male classmates received the university’s first Ph.D.s in education in 1970.
At Hofstra she was active in the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and contributed to its network on language, literacy and literature. She edited the network’s newsletter and reviewed children’s literature for it — a task that continued until she was hospitalized on Labor Day.
She retired after a long and eventful career, but continued to work as an adjunct professor. In 1994 Hofstra named her a professor emerita in tribute to her “long and meaningful service as an accomplished member of the faculty.”
Sandel was a frequent contributor to professional journals and a familiar speaker at conferences. She wrote and edited several books, including “Personal Qualities of a Language Arts Teacher,” “Teaching With Care: Cultivating Personal Qualities that Make a Difference” and a research monograph, “Development of Language.”
Over the years she served as a supervisor of student teachers and an advisor to more than 150 doctoral candidates. Susan Sandel, a dance movement therapist who works in Connecticut with cancer survivors, people with chronic illnesses and seniors, said her mother became friends with a number of her students and went out of her way to help as a thesis advisor. Susan said her family still receives fruit baskets, flowers and gifts from students her mother helped a quarter century ago.
Rockville Centre Senior Services Director Dr. Cyd Charrow was one of those students. “Lenore was a most amazing and inspirational person,” she said. “I did my doctoral research on what contributes to life satisfaction in older adults. One major thing I discovered is the feeling that you can be of use, making contributions to your friends, family and community. Lenore had that all the time. Despite suffering with disabilities, she would come in to the center and say, ‘My head is down but my spirit is up.’ She projected this positive attitude that those she came in contact with would say inspired them.
“In a personal way, she and Lenny really acted almost as parents to me,” Charrow continued. “She was a mentor as I worked through a difficult five years navigating the whole doctoral program. They were cheerleaders, parents, taking a personal investment in my achievements.
“And the other thing about them,” Charrow added, “is that they were the most amazing couple. Despite the years that had passed, they still saw each other with the eyes of first love — with adoration and admiration.”
Another student, Joan Kiernan, who took part in Lenore’s creative writing workshop at the Sandel Senior Center for several years, remembered both her strength and her personal touch. “She was little, and you would think of her as a fragile person, but she wasn’t at all — her mind was remarkable,” Kiernan recalled. “I admired her ability to write and edit, teach and lecture. But what I found most remarkable about Lenore was her sensitivity to her students and her persistent pursuit of knowledge. She used to critique our work with handwritten notes, always ending with the words, ‘Keep writing.’ That was her theme in life.”
In March 2010, Sandel received a certificate of appreciation for 20 years of service as a facilitator of the Language, Literacy and Learning Network from the ACSD. Then, last fall, at its Diamond Reception celebrating its 75th anniversary, Hofstra inducted her into the William and Kate Hofstra Honor Roll, in recognition of her impact on the school.
Known for her generosity, she donated books to the Rockville Centre Public Library, the Rosa Lee Young Childhood Center, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center and the Rockville Centre/Lakeview Economic Opportunity Council. A special children’s collection at the Hofstra University Library is named after and dedicated to her. According to her daughter, one of her favorite expressions was, “Cast your bread upon the water and it will come back as sandwiches.”
Sandel was generous in spirit as well. Bob Baulch, a teacher at South Side Middle School, a neighbor and longtime friend, said, “Lenore provided invaluable counsel on so many matters and occasions. I am grateful that she encouraged me to pursue a career as an educator. For me and countless others in the field, she has served as a mentor and model of lifelong learning.”
Jesse Geffen, another neighbor and friend of the Sandels, said, “I consider Lenore one of the most influential people in my life. As my childhood mentor, she taught me the value of literacy, schooling and serving my community. In one of my last visits with Lenore, I asked her about the way in which she lived her life. She said, ‘I have absolutely no regrets. Everything I’ve ever done was with the best intentions, and I would never go back and undo that.’”
Sandel is survived by her husband and their daughter. A sister, Jean Gelernter, of Hempstead, predeceased her. A funeral service was held at Gutterman’s on Sept. 16, and interment followed at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont. The family asks that contributions to honor Sandel’s life be made to the Hofstra University Lenore Sandel Scholarship Fund, 102 Hofstra Hall, Hempstead, N.Y. 11549 or at www.Hofstra.edu. Contributions may also be made to the Central Synagogue of Nassau County, 430 DeMott Avenue, Rockville Centre, N.Y. 11570-1815.
She’s a lady quite petite
Little hands and little feet
You may think that she is fragile
But she’s not.
When she speaks you’re sure to find
She possesses a fine mind
And the words she chooses make you think a lot.
A great teacher, yes indeed
A fine human being, as well
She’s a learned, lovely lady named Lenore Sandel.
— Joan Kiernan
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