In Remembrance: STEPHEN A. LIEBER, August 30, 1925–March 31, 2020

Posted: August 11, 2020
In Remembrance: STEPHEN A. LIEBER, August 30, 1925–March 31, 2020

Steve Lieber didn’t set out to change the world…. but during a lifetime of passionate work, he and his wife Constance (1924–2016) did just that. What started as a quest for mental health therapy to aid a family member evolved into a lifetime commitment to advancing scientific research on the brain and mental health. Expanding rigorous scientific research to lessen human suffering caused by severe psychiatric disorders was his guiding star.

Steve and Constance were leading public advocates and philanthropic supporters of schizophrenia, depression and mental health research in the U.S. and around the globe. Their efforts launched thousands of careers in mental illness research. Their work included support for top-notch scientists from significant clinical and scientific institutions that gave rise to countless discoveries in the field of biological psychiatry and related patient services. The vast majority of major scientific investigators studying the brain and behavior have received Lieber philanthropic support at some point.

In the mid-1980’s Steve and Constance met Dr. Herbert Pardes, the Chair of Psychiatry at Columbia (former director of the NIMH). Dr. Pardes introduced them to the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), now Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF), which they joined in 1987. The result was a major step forward for the global attack on psychiatric disease. Under Steve and Constance’s leadership the BBRF developed a uniquely warm, understanding and empathic approach to the patients, families and investigators of the broad mental health community.

BBRF is currently the world’s most prominent private funder of mental health research grants. Constance served as President for 18 years, and Steve was Chairman for 12 years, until his death. Since 1987, BBRF has awarded more than $408 million to fund more than 5,900 grants to more than 4,800 international scientists of multiple and diverse disciplines.

In 2011, inspired by promising developments (in genetics, imaging, and other research categories) regarding how early brain development initiates trajectories that can lead to schizophrenia and related disorders in mental health, the Lieber family and the Maltz family created the Lieber Institute for Brain Development (LIBD) and the Maltz Research Laboratories at the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus in Baltimore, MD.

In 2014, Steve and Constance Lieber were honored by the American Psychiatric Association with a Special Presidential Commendation, stating “Constance and Steve have provided unwavering moral and material support to unravel the mysteries of the brain, and to better understand and treat mental illness.”

At Columbia University, the Liebers founded two centers of excellence—the Lieber Recovery and Rehabilitation Clinic and the Lieber Center for Schizophrenia Research and Treatment.

Steve Lieber also endowed the neuroscience department at his alma mater, Williams College. His pervasive goal was to encourage outstanding young minds to pursue careers in neuroscience, and it worked. Neuroscience is currently the most popular undergraduate major at Williams College.

Steve Lieber’s unwavering commitment to breakthroughs in mental health research was matched by his innovative and successful 70-year career in investment management. He had the kind of robust imagination that led to truly innovative strategies—in his business career and in his philanthropy— and the persistence and commitment to put these innovative strategies to work. He inspired a fierce, ongoing loyalty from his employees as well as from the hundreds of scientists who were granted his philanthropic support. At the time of his death, Steve was hard at work and actively engaged as CEO of Alpine Woods Capital Investors, as well as Chairman and Senior Portfolio Manager of Saxon Woods Advisors, LLC. In addition, he was General Partner of Alpine Woods Growth Values, L.P.

Steve Lieber’s Wall Street career began in 1950. After attending Williams College and Harvard Graduate School, and newly married to Constance, Steve joined the Wall Street investment management firm Oppenheimer Vanden Broeck & Co. He was elevated to partner in 1953, and in 1956 became a co-founder of Vanden Broeck Lieber & Co. Thirteen years later in 1969 he started his own investment firm, Lieber & Co. In 1971 he formed the Evergreen Fund, one of the nation’s first “no-load” mutual funds which invested predominantly in smaller entrepreneurial companies. According to Kiplinger’s and Lipper rankings, the Evergreen Fund was the #2 best performing mutual fund in America from 1975–1980.

The Evergreen Fund was followed by a series of six additional mutual funds managed by Lieber & Co., or its affiliates, with assets of more than $3 billion in the early 1990s. In 1994, First Union Bank Corp. purchased Lieber & Co. (which was the parent firm of Evergreen Asset Management Corp., the investment adviser to the Evergreen Funds). For the following five years, Mr. Lieber continued as chairman, co-chief executive, and portfolio manager.

Upon leaving Evergreen Asset Management Corp. in 1999, Mr. Lieber formed Saxon Woods Advisors, LLC. In 2003, he joined his son Samuel’s firm, Alpine Asset Management, to create Alpine Woods Capital Investors. Together Steve and Sam Lieber developed the successful Alpine Family of Mutual Funds, and Hedge Funds. The Alpine mutual funds were sold to Aberdeen Standard Investment Company in 2018. Last year, Steve Lieber added the Alpine Woods Masters Series to its existing hedge fund offerings. He was very enthusiastic about his talented team of investment portfolio managers and staff.

His devoted 67-year marriage with Constance serves as a stellar example of how two people can support and encourage each other to accomplish things of significant societal value. Many of their achievements came into being long after they were both past the “typical” age of retirement. During their marriage, Stephen brought his optimism, his creative imagination, and his adventurous spirit—all of which helped him become a financial titan. And, Constance was able to harness his whimsy—without constraining his creativity—by adding her own grit and analytical abilities. Their marriage was an ongoing love story as well as an enduring partnership.

During their lifetimes, Steve and Constance Lieber sought no fame or notice from the world. As a team they were the embodiment of generosity, brilliance, compassion, and the essence of selflessness. In their selfless way they put all their energy and effort into the goal of defeating the scourge of mental illness. In private, they were passionate about family and the people lose to them. They shared a love of art, architecture, nature, and science. Throughout his adult life and well into his 80s, Steve Lieber was an avid sailor, and a successful ocean racing competitor with his son Sam. He also loved swimming, rowing, and was a competitive windsurfer well into his senior years. Anyone knowing and viewing the Liebers’ life together can understand why they are universally loved.

Steve Lieber is survived by his beloved daughter Janice. His son and business partner Samuel tragically passed away unexpectedly in 2019. Other survivors include his beloved grandson David and daughter-in-law Mary Rubin

Click here to read the Brain & Behavior Magazine's August 2020 issue