Robert Collier Nusbaum

by | Nov 26, 2018 | Obituaries

Norfolk —Robert Collier Nusbaum was born on February 23, 1924, in Norfolk, Virginia, the oldest son of Justine L. and Virginius H. Nusbaum, and he died peacefully at home in Norfolk on October 31, 2018.

He was predeceased by his parents and his two brothers, Sidney L. Nusbaum II and Virginius H. “Pooch” Nusbaum, Jr., as well as his nephew, Alan B. Nusbaum. He is survived by his wife of thirty-one years, Linda S. Laibstain; sons, Robert C. Nusbaum, Jr. (Sue), and William L. Nusbaum (Sharon); daughter-in-law, Marlene A. Nusbaum; granddaughters, Jessica L. Nusbaum (Chris Jannusch), and Leigh M. Nusbaum; great grandchildren, Eva and Karsten Jannusch; nieces, Ann G. Nusbaum, and Cynthia N. Katz (Stuart); brother-in-law, Richard H. Laibstain (Teresa Allen), and sister-in-law, Betty L. Lappin (Larry); nieces and nephews, Caroline Laibstain, and David, Jeffrey, and Emma Lappin; and an extended family of cousins and dear friends.

In 1941, Bob graduated from Maury High School in Norfolk and entered Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His undergraduate education was interrupted by World War II , when he was called to service first in the United States Army, and then in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), serving in the European Theater until the conclusion of the war. Bob’s war service left him with a lifelong appreciation and love of France. Throughout his lifetime he returned numerous times to France, enjoying the opportunity to speak French and enjoy the country’s culture.

After a post-war term at Harvard, Bob enrolled at the University of Virginia Law School in June 1946, graduating two years later in June 1948. He began his practice of law in Norfolk with Alan J. Hofheimer, a relationship that endured for over 40 years. Their firm grew to over 30 attorneys, and in 2004, Hofheimer Nusbaum merged with the law firm of Williams Mullen. In Bob’s 65 years plus of the practice of law, he was regularly named a “Super Lawyer” by Virginia Super Lawyers magazine and a member of the “Legal Elite” by Virginia Business magazine. He was one of a select few to be listed in seven categories in The Best Lawyers in America. Bob was a permanent member of the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He was a fellow of the American Bar Association, the Virginia Law Foundation, the American College of Trust & Estate Counsel, and the American College of Real Estate Lawyers. He served as president of the Norfolk & Portsmouth Bar Association, and chaired the Virginia State Bar Committee on Women and Minorities in the Law, among numerous other leadership positions in the bar.

In 2011, Bob received the Eggleston-Anson Professionalism Award, the highest honor given by the Norfolk & Portsmouth Bar Association to a practicing attorney. Bob’s civic and philanthropic activities include years of service on the board of directors and executive committee of Norfolk International Terminals, various boards of Sentara Health Systems and its predecessors, and the board of directors and as chairman of the Library of Virginia. He served as an officer and director of the Tidewater Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Norfolk Forum, the Virginia Symphony, the Maury Foundation, and the Diabetes Institutes Foundation.

Bob was particularly proud of his role in establishing the Foundation for the Howard and Georgeanna Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at the Eastern Virginia Medical School, including several years as chairman of the board. Always committed to building a forward-thinking community, in the late 1950s, Bob publicly fought against Virginia’s “Massive Resistance” to the integration of Norfolk public schools. In the 1960s, he organized The Aid Fund, to provide scholarships to talented African-American students who were integrating Virginia’s public colleges and graduate schools. In the 1970s and 1980s, he founded and led Virginians Organized for Informed Community Expression (VOICE) to support the then-controversial creation of the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine. In the 1990s and 2000s, he conceived and facilitated the founding of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom at Virginia Wesleyan University. In recognition of his contributions to the establishment of the Center for Religious Freedom, Virginia Wesleyan University awarded Bob an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2002. Bob was named First Citizen of Norfolk by the Cosmopolitan Club in 1996, an honor also bestowed upon his mother, Justine, in 1979. Bob received the second Barron F. Black Community Builder Award from the Norfolk Foundation in 2008, and in 2009, he was named the Colgate W. Darden, Jr. Scouter Citizen of the Year by the Tidewater Council of the Boy Scouts of America. In 2013, Bob received the Humanitarian Award from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, and in 2014, he was honored to receive the L.D. Britt, M.D., Community Service Award. In 2014, Bob and Linda received the Chancellor’s Award for Leadership and Philanthropy from Tidewater Community College (TCC) for their years of support of TCC and higher education at the community college level.

It is impossible to summarize over 94 years of life and achievement on paper and to capture the person. Simply put, Bob’s greatest achievements were his family, his professionalism, and his unwavering commitment to the rights and liberties which he believed to be among the most important of our society, namely the freedom of religion and education for all citizens, regardless of race or religion. In 2017, in recognition of his contributions to furthering higher education in the African-American community, and his having been the chief patron of Norfolk  State University’s Honors College since its inception in 1993, the University named it “The Robert C. Nusbaum Honors College,” which will remain one of his enduring legacies.

Bob and Linda not only enjoyed a long and happy marriage, but they enjoyed each other and traveling together for three decades.

Burial was at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Norfolk with services at Ohef Sholom Temple, where Bob was a lifetime member, trusted advisor, and past president. Contributions may be made in Bob’s memory to a charity of choice.