“We can always count on Steve.”
Many people and organizations across New York and the country might say that about Stephen Siegel, chairman of Global Brokerage for CB Richard Ellis. None more so than National Jewish Health, a world-leading respiratory, allergic and immune disease research and treatment center in Denver that has been named the No. 1 respiratory hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report a record 17 times.
“Steve is obviously best known for his extraordinary skills and accomplishments in the commercial real estate industry,” said Michael Salem, MD, president and CEO of National Jewish Health. “But for us at National Jewish Health, it has been his generous spirit, his steadfast support and willingness to always help that has made him a true pillar of our philanthropic efforts.”
For more than 25 years, Steve and his wife, Wendy, have helped raise funds and awareness for National Jewish Health, most visibly as co-chairs of the National Council of Trustees and leaders of the annual Real Estate and Construction Industries Winter’s Evening Dinner Dance, a fixture on the New York real estate industry’s social and philanthropic calendar for 50 years.
Steve and Wendy Siegel first became seriously involved with National Jewish Health in 1992, when Steve was honored at the Winter’s Evening Dinner Dance and received the National Jewish Health Humanitarian Award. For decades Steve has contributed both time and money to charitable causes, sitting on the boards of directors of more than 15 nonprofits and giving to dozens of charities. Many of his colleagues and competitors in the real estate industry have called him the most generous man in the industry.
Siegel, who grew up in the Bronx, learned the importance of giving from his parents. His father was a laborer and his mother a school crossing guard. “If my mother had two dollars, she would give away one. Actually, she’d probably give away two dollars,” Siegel told the Wall Street Journal in 2011.
For National Jewish Health, Steve and Wendy established the Stephen B. and Wendy Siegel Fund for Pediatric Asthma and Allergy Research in 1992, the year he was honored at the Winter’s Evening Dinner Dance. Steve himself had battled asthma as a child. In 2013, a fund was established in Wendy Siegel’s honor—the Wendy Siegel Fund for Leukemia and Cancer Research.
Steve Siegel has been co-chair of the Winter’s Evening Dinner every year since 1992, and Wendy has been executive chair of the dinner. In 1993, Wendy and Steve became national trustees of the hospital and in 2006 began their current roles as Co-Chairs of the National Council of Trustees in 2006.
The National Jewish Health trustees comprise a network of more than 200 civic and industry leaders across the nation who support National Jewish Health and raise awareness of the hospital through their contacts and at dozens of events from California to Chicago, Florida and New York. Steve and Wendy have been steadfast leaders of this influential group for a dozen years.
“Steve is always there for us,” said the hospital’s CEO and president, Michael Salem. “Whether it is serving as a co-chair of Winter’s Evening, making calls on our behalf, hosting meetings in his office, attending an event or speaking on our behalf, when we ask, Steve flashes that smile and says, ‘Sure. Happy to do it.’”
National Jewish Health first garnered the attention of the New York real estate industry in 1969, when developer Larry Silverstein threw his considerable influence behind the hospital. Silverstein had come to National Jewish Health seeking successful treatment for his asthma, which he could not find in New York. At the forefront of research and always thinking of new solutions, doctors at the hospital gave the then 30-something Silverstein a medication thought at the time appropriate only for children.
Grateful for his return to health, Silverstein opened his rolodex (remember those?), rallied the New York real estate industry, and helped launch the Winter’s Evening event in 1969. Every December, the dinner dance attracts more than 1,000 members of the New York real estate community, who generously donate several million dollars to support National Jewish Health.
In 1899, when tuberculosis was a deadly epidemic raging across the nation, Frances Wisebart Jacobs, future founder of United Way, teamed up with the local and national Jewish community to open National Jewish Health, a free hospital for indigent tuberculosis patients of all backgrounds and religions. The hospital charged not a dime for care during the first 70 years of its existence, and continues today to serve all patients without regard for their ability to pay. The guiding principle, “None may enter who can pay, none can pay who enter,” is still on display at the entrance of the B’nai B’rith building on the hospital campus.
Basic and clinical research have been central elements of the National Jewish Health mission since its earliest days. National Jewish Health faculty have made groundbreaking discoveries in both pulmonology and immunology, ranging from discovery of the “allergy molecule” IgE, to numerous revelations about the development and function of the immune system, and the biological underpinnings of asthma, cystic fibrosis, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
“The faculty and staff at National Jewish Health do important work, and they do it well,” said Siegel. “We have been impressed not only by the extraordinary research and patient care at National Jewish, but also by the long history of treating people regardless of their financial means. We are thrilled with this opportunity to support efforts,” said Siegel when he was named co-chair of the National Council of Trustees.
Recently, Wendy benefited directly from a collaboration National Jewish Health established in New York City. In 2015, National Jewish Health fulfilled a longtime wish of its New York supporters by teaming up with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to bring the National Jewish Health model of care to New York and open the Mount Sinai—National Jewish Health Respiratory Institute. When Wendy was battling a serious case of pneumonia, complicated by secondary infections, physicians at the Mount Sinai—National Jewish Health Respiratory Institute saved her life.
The Respiratory Institute brings the multidisciplinary, team-based model of care practiced at the National Jewish Health main campus to respiratory patients in the New York area. Pulmonologists collaborate with specialists in related disciplines, including cardiology, allergy, gastroenterology, rheumatology, ENT, and thoracic surgery, to provide team-based, patient-centered care. It also draws on Mount Sinai’s programs in personalized medicine, genomics, and data-driven clinical protocols to enhance the quality and outcomes of the respiratory disease practice.
In addition to his work with National Jewish Health, Siegel contributes his time and energy to several other organizations, including the American Friends of Rabin Medical Center, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, The Jazz Foundation of America and the Gift of Life Marrow Registry.