Oct. 15, 2018 — In a career that has been defined by generosity, Leah Nusynowitz Gross is adding a new chapter as she recently began her new role as senior director of philanthropy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Gross, a 1987 alumna of the University of Houston Law Center, was most recently a manager of major gifts at Texas Children's Hospital for nearly five years. She previously worked as the director of annual giving at the Law Center from 2009-2013 and before that, a variety of roles at the Law Center including assistant dean of admissions and director of marketing and public relations from 1992-2005.
While Gross does not use her legal education in a traditional manner, she said there are still ways to use the skills she learned at the Law Center.
"My legal education helps me to look at things more analytically and passionately," Gross said. "I'm an emotional and high-energy person, and my legal education tempers those characteristics and look at things objectively.
"Fundraising work is an interesting mix — it's about discovering a person's passion and making a connection. It's not that different from advocacy when you're trying to persuade a judge, a jury or opposing counsel."
When reflecting on her time as a law student, Gross said she fondly remembers her classmates and excellent instruction from distinguished faculty members. But it was her time as a Law Center employee that gave her a deeper appreciation for the school.
"I didn't encounter my favorite teacher at the Law Center until I became a staffer," Gross said. "Michael Olivas taught a seminar on Higher Education Law and I enrolled in it because I wanted to become knowledgeable. He was engaging, smart and sometimes irreverent. Even though I wasn't five years out from receiving my J.D., he did not cut me any slack."
In addition to her professional responsibilities, Gross serves on the board of directors at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center. She referenced "Tikkun olam," a Jewish concept defined by acts of loving kindness performed to perfect or repair the world.
"Each person has an obligation to improve this world while they are in it and leave it better than how they found it," Gross said. "Tikkun olam applies to bettering everything around you. It can mean volunteering and donating monetary and other resources to all sorts of causes — enhancing cultural institutions, improving educational institutions, advancing social justice.
"As a fundraiser, I think people should give back. And everybody can give something. Law Center alumni were given a gift that improved themselves, enriched their families, and helped their clients. They can start their tikkun olam journey by giving to the Law Center."