Howard B. Stravitz, longtime professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, gourmand, wine connoisseur, and beloved by his family and his many friends, passed away April 30, 2021, at the age of 73.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Howard migrated to Columbia, South Carolina, in 1983 and became a fixture of the academic, Jewish, and food and wine communities (among others) for nearly 40 years.
Howard was a nationally recognized scholar of civil procedure. His works have been cited by courts across the country, including the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He was a recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Publication Award for scholarship focused on the jurisdiction and powers of federal courts. During his academic career, he also established himself as a sought-after legal consultant on many cases in both state and federal courts, evaluating complex civil procedure and federal courts issues.
After graduating in 1972 from Rutgers University School of Law- Camden with high honors and serving as the editor-in-chief of the Rutgers Law Journal, Howard worked as a law clerk for the late Honorable David N. Edelstein, then Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (1972–1974). Before joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina Law School, Howard practiced law with Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York City for a decade.
Howard was truly one of a kind, in the best possible way. He was erudite and eclectic. He loved good wine and good food because they were accompanied by the delightful companionship of the many who were close to him.
His knowledge of wine was incomparable: for years he authored the wine chart at the end of the famous Zagat restaurant guides. He cooked with the skill and panache of the best gourmet chef. He was a longtime member of the Bacchus Society, in both Columbia and Charleston, a group of close friends who shared his passion for great wine and food to match.
Howard’s dinner parties were legendary, involving a rotating cast of friends and were often for charitable purposes. Howard would cook each course in his professional-grade kitchen, and then enjoy that course with his guests, paired with wines chosen with the expertise of the most skilled sommelier. Many times his dinner guests saw the sun rise at the end of a multi-course meal while finishing dessert and sipping port, having spent an enjoyable night engaged in discussions of fascinating subjects led by Howard that rivaled those of the famous Round Table at the Algonquin.
Howard’s law school classes were also legendary, and he was beloved by his students as he was by his friends. His areas of expertise were broad, but perhaps his most popular course was a study of Jewish law, which students clamored to get into regardless of their particular religious beliefs. Howard brought to that class not only a rabbinical knowledge of Judaism but a profound understanding of many other religions, especially from a historical perspective. As the Talmud says, whoever teaches Jewish law to others, it is as if they became a parent; viewed through that lens, Howard was a parent to hundreds if not thousands of students of all faiths. For many years, Howard invited his classes to his home for legendary end-of-semester wine and cheese parties, the tales of which were legion.
Howard relished serving as a mentor to generations of law students. Between 1989 and 1999, he coached the South Carolina law school teams in the American Bar Association Moot Court competition. Several of his teams made it to the national finals, and one of his students was named the best oralist at the national finals.
Howard loved learning, from the deepest intellectual topics to the basic issues of humanity, from the most serious topic to the silliest, from the most esoteric and spiritual to the most practical. Howard also loved teaching, which stemmed from his endless quest for knowledge. His career perfectly matched his passions —allowing him to learn and teach alongside close friends. Indeed, even as his health declined in recent months, Howard continued teaching through the end of the spring semester, committed to his students and to sharing both his knowledge and that passion for learning.
Howard loved helping others, particularly those who struggled to help themselves and their families. His charitable actions and contributions were the boundless product of his platonic ideal of a giving heart.
Howard also loved football. Howard spoke often of his days as an offensive lineman on his high school football team. He remained close with those teammates and loved sharing football Saturdays with a group of friends who shared his passion for football; indeed, he often arrived with the appropriate bottle (more often, bottles) of wine to pair with the game day snacks.
Most of all, Howard loved people, from all walks of life. He had countless friends and was beloved by them all. His friendship and love for others was constant and unending. That love for others came with a great sense of humor, insight, and passion. His advice and counsel were cherished.
Howard was deeply invested in his faith. Since his arrival to Columbia in 1983, Howard was a devoted member of Beth Shalom synagogue and served a term as its president. He was recognized for leading the synagogue through difficult times with great skill and agility. In recent weeks, he spoke regularly about his excitement for the fall, not only for the opportunity to gather safely in person again but because —as past president of the synagogue—he would have the honor of holding one of the sacred Torahs.
Howard is survived by his loving family: his brother Ed, sister-in-law, Joyce, his nieces, Pamela Sculler and Shari Cooperstein, Shari’s husband Howard Cooperstein, and four of Ed’s and Joyce’s grandchildren, Matthew Sculler, David Sculler, Jordan Cooperstein, and Carly Cooperstein. Howard thought of them as his own grandchildren, and they called him Great Uncle Howard.
Contributions may be made to the University of South Carolina School of Law, Howard B. Stravitz Scholarship Fund, mailed to the Development Office, 1525 Senate Street, Columbia, S.C. 29208 or online at donate.sc.edu/direct-your-gift?id=04c258de-fbab-47c1-825f-f595a2bfbeb1.
Howard was laid to rest Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in a private family ceremony. A public celebration and memorial will be announced and scheduled for a later date. Shives Funeral Home, Trenholm Road Chapel, is assisting the family locally and Beth Israel Memorial Chapel, of Delray Beach, is assisting the family in Florida.
It would be impossible to capture the magnificence and humanity of Howard Stravitz in a treatise, let alone in the limited space of an obituary. Quite simply, he is irreplaceable, and will be greatly missed by many.