The Gift of Larry Reuben

GWP Eskenazi Reuben 0261 CropIn 1970, when Larry Reuben first started "hanging out at the ICLU," he was a law student at Indiana University. In 1972, Larry graduated and set up practice not far from the Thomas Building on East Washington Street in Indianapolis, where the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, as it was then known, was located.

Around once a month, Larry would walk over to the Thomas Building during lunch and gather with other attorneys who would discuss the merits of cases and which attorneys would litigate them. The Screening Committee, as this group was referred to for several decades, worked hand-in-hand with Legal Services: "It's kind of hard to separate the ICLU gang from the LSO gang," said Larry. "Not only were we in the same building, but we had the same mindset—to right the wrongs in our community and to help people who were not able to help themselves."

Thomas building fire

The Thomas building would be destroyed in a massive fire in 1973, but the ICLU lived on, moving to another Indianapolis office at 445 North Pennsylvania Street. Larry, in a sense, moved with it, taking on cases alongside legends such as Irving Fink. 

Creationism in public schools

In 1977, he and Fink won an important First Amendment victory in Hendren v. Campbell, when a state court judge ruled that a public school's use of a textbook about creationism was unconstitutional. A ninth-grade student at West Clark Community School Corporation brought the case against members of the Indiana Textbook Commission for approving his school's adoption of Biology: A Search for Order in Complexity (Zondervan Publishing, 1977).

In the opinion, the Judge wrote: "The question is whether a text obviously designed to present only the view of Biblical Creationism in a favorable light is constitutionally acceptable in the public schools of Indiana. Two hundred years of constitutional government demand that the answer be no."

"World's Largest Christmas Tree"

But one of Larry's most significant ICLU cases, he says, is one that never made it to court. In the late '90s he negotiated a "deal" with the attorney for Mayor William H. Hudnut to fund the lighting on Monument Circle of the "World's Largest Christmas Tree" with private donations rather than with taxpayer funds, as had been the practice since 1962.

Paying the "Dream" forward

Larry says he is the product of the American Dream. His maternal grandparents, lacking official documents, "talked their way onto the boat" when his mother, Sara, was only seven. They had walked approximately 1,500 miles from Bobruisk, Belarus—across Poland, Germany, Belgium and France—to Paris, where they sailed to Cuba. Two years later, in 1923, they settled in Omaha, Nebraska. Sara married Albert G. Reuben in 1939, and in 1948 the couple moved to Indianapolis.

His father was the "classic American entrepreneur," according to Larry. With limited education, his dad eventually worked his way up to owning a number of franchises and real estate developments.

Albert died in 2002, and Sara followed in 2010. But their legacy lives on through the Albert G. and Sara I. Reuben Family Foundation. Today, this son of immigrants has donated millions of dollars from his parents' estate to Indianapolis nonprofits that tackle issues such as elder care, education, homelessness, mental health, civil rights and justice, women's health and reproductive rights, early childhood development, immigrant acculturation, human and animal rights and Jewish education, heritage and community welfare.

Destination Indiana

In addition to supporting the education and outreach efforts of the ACLU of Indiana, in 2013 Larry and his wife, Candice, sponsored the interactive video exhibit at the Indiana History Center "Destination Indiana" about the history of the ACLU of Indiana.

On October 18, 2013, because of generous donations from Larry and his wife, Candice, Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis named its Medical Education Team Room in honor of Lawrence M. and Candice A. Reuben, and dedicated the Albert G. and Sara I. Reuben Operating Room in the Surgical Suite. Present in the room for a champagne toast were the beneficiaries of his largess from more than half a dozen nonprofit organizations. It was an event designed to thank Larry, but all he could say to the group was, "Thank you."

Larry Reuben passed away on Sept. 11, 2015. Click here to read a tribute to Larry.

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