Sunday April 25, 2010

Sense of Duty

Over the last three decades, Professor Richard Saphire has taught generations of University of Dayton School of Law students about such topics as Constitutional law, law and religion, and professional responsibility. But his influence reaches well beyond the classroom.

Over the last three decades, professor Richard Saphire has taught generations of University of Dayton School of Law students about such topics as Constitutional Law, Law and Religion, and Professional Responsibility. But his influence reaches well beyond the classroom.

Saphire has long worked to help the homeless, something he calls his avocation. "It fits in well with my work at the law school and fits in with the mission of the University of Dayton," he said, offering credit to the university and the School of Law for supporting his work.

While he'd be involved in issues of homelessness wherever he taught, Saphire said, his work connects well with the university's commitment to social justice.

Earlier this year, Saphire stepped down after three years as president of the board of trustees of The Other Place, which provides shelter, housing and social services to homeless people in Dayton. Saphire, who has been associated with the organization since 1989, remains a member of the board.

"I think our agency has been very important in moving the community ahead with dealing with issues of homelessness," he said.

Helping others and being an advocate for those less fortunate is part of Saphire's makeup. "In a sense it's my duty and in a sense it's a real opportunity in life," he said of helping others. "I have gotten much more out of it than I've put in."

His passion for advocacy work and helping others comes from his family and his religious background. Saphire, who is Jewish, said he comes from a "religious background committed to social justice and improving the world."

"It's had a profound effect on my work," he said, from his legal aid work to his legal writing to his teaching.

Saphire, who joined the faculty in 1976, included issues of homelessness when he taught Constitutional Law. He also has taught weeklong intrasession courses on homelessness and the law, during which students spent time in a homeless shelter and out in the field with those who provide services to homeless people. Having students spend time in shelters had a dramatic effect on them "because so many of those students never experienced poverty." It also allows students to work with and help people who are different.

Under Saphire's leadership, great progress has been achieved to improve serves that help the homeless, said Bro. Raymond L. Fitz, former UD president who is now the Fr. Ferree professor of social justice. "I am very proud of how The Other Place and St. Vincent have worked together to make real progress collaborating to serve the homeless," Fitz said. "It hasn't always been that way in our community."

As part of that effort, The Other Place, the university and Dayton leaders, including those in different government agencies, the business sector and the community, began looking at how the community of Dayton deals with the problem of homelessness. The effort resulted in a long-term goal of eliminating homelessness in the Miami Valley.

As part of that goal, The Other Place underwent a transformation, changing its scope and operations.

When Saphire first got involved with the work of The Other Place, he said, it was a "shoestring operation." But today, it's a multiservice organization with a staff of about 50 that provides a full array of assistance to the homeless, including social services and case management, at The Other Place's new Gateway Center on Dayton's west side and at St. Vincent de Paul Hotel. Much of the organization's attention is focused on prevention and providing services for homeless people who are transitioning to temporary and permanent housing.

Saphire deflects credit for the organization's accomplishments, instead crediting The Other Place's staff members. "I'm glad to have been part of an organization that's made a major contribution to the community."

For more information, contact Bob Mihalek, communications specialist at the University of Dayton School of Law, at 937-229-4683 or bob.mihalek@udayton.edu.

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