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Events Honor Life of Art Zief

February 24, 2009

Passionate, difficult, compassionate, and stubborn were among the many words used to describe Arthur C. Zief, BA '41, JD '47, at a memorial service in St. Ignatius Church Feb. 14.

The memorial service, organized by the USF School of Law, began a day-long series of events to honor Zief, who died July 25 at age 89 and was among the university's most ardent supporters. The service was followed by a reception in the Dorraine Zief Law Library with music and an open microphone for friends and colleagues to share stories about Zief, a second reception hosted by the USF athletics department, and a USF-Gonzaga basketball game featuring a half-time tribute to Zief, a USF basketball fan who rarely missed a home game in Memorial Gym.

"Art was a real character and a genuine soul, a man of great passion and enthusiasm," said Donal Godfrey, S.J., executive director of University Ministry at USF. Fr. Godfrey remarked on the uniqueness of the service, which was presided over by a Jesuit priest and a Jewish cantor. "That's exactly what Art would have wanted and he had even requested that his memorial be held here in this church."

The service, which was attended by friends, former colleagues, and university students, faculty, alumni, and administrators, featured a video chronicling his life narrated by USF President Stephen A. Privett, S.J., a eulogy by Dean Jeffrey Brand, and readings by students who have received Zief scholarships.

"I suspect that there are few souls in this church who were not caught in the kaleidoscopic crossfire of Art's emotions and passions as he thundered through life: his generosity, his love, his loyalty, his kindness, his irascibility, his temper, his stubbornness, and his never-miss-a-beat intelligence until his dying day," Brand said. "Art nurtured, sustained, perplexed, infuriated, and astonished all who knew him."

Zief's nephew Todd Muenter recalled his uncle's many idiosyncrasies, including how if he liked a person, he would assign them a nickname. He spoke of Zief's wife, Dorraine, who Muenter called the glue that that held the family together and "kept the ship afloat."

Zief's former law partner Ray Glickman spoke next, saying he's "never met anybody with the enthusiasm and passion for life that that man had. Art had a tremendous sense of fairness and justice." He recalled Zief's tireless campaigns to improve the lives of the developmentally disabled, which included establishing a nonprofit foundation in honor of his son, Artie Jr. Glickman remembered Zief saying that while "Artie Jr. can't speak, the foundation will speak for him forever."

All who spoke recalled with fondness and good humor Zief's often fiery temper, which caused him to storm out of meetings or slam the telephone receiver down mid-coversation. "It's true Art could be difficult but deep down he had a tremendous compassion and a tremendous sense of doing the right thing," Glickman said.

"Art may have yelled, but he also cried," Brand said. "He may have stormed out in anger but he sustained our very being, demanding that we believe in how good we are, how much better we could become, and all that we could accomplish together."

Zief leaves a legacy as the law school's most generous donor. The Zief Scholarship endowment, valued at $9 million, supports approximately 75 second- and third-year law students each year. His $3.2 million gift in 1998 to support the construction of a new law library, which he named for his wife, Dorraine, is among the largest gifts by an individual in the university's history.

His son, who is developmentally disabled, was Zief's other source of philanthropic inspiration. In addition to contributing to organizations that promote the well-being of the developmentally disabled, the Ziefs established the Arthur Zief Jr. Foundation in 1988. The foundation has purchased nine homes in San Mateo County where nearly 50 severely developmentally disabled adults now live.

Zief is survived by his wife, Dorraine; son, Artie Jr.; daughter, Reinart Gelzayd; son-in-law, Dr. Eugene Gelzayd; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.