By Romi Carrell Wittman –
2016 Tucson Founders Award Honoree
You may not know it, but the roads you drive on every day are improving thanks, in part, to the work of Si Schorr. If you’ve taken classes at Pima Community College, you also have benefited from his hard work and dedication.
In honor of his lifetime of civic involvement and community contribution, Schorr has received the 2016 Greater Tucson Leadership Founders Award.
“It’s a high,” he said. “Some great people have received this award in the past.”
Schorr has called Tucson home since 1957 when he and his wife, Eleanor, moved here from New York. Soon after they arrived, Schorr went to lunch with a group of city leaders, the “movers and shakers.” Among them were Roy Drachman and Evo DeConcini.
“They encouraged me to get involved in civic opportunities,” Schorr said. “Something like that wasn’t probable in New York City, but Tucson was growing and on the move and I had a chance to really get involved.”
Schorr’s first civic role was his service on the Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission. Shortly thereafter, he took the position of Assistant City Manager and Urban Renewal Director for the City of Tucson.
“I didn’t intend to stay in city government,” he said of the new city job. “But it was an unusual opportunity for a young person to grow with the city and to learn and enjoy what was occurring.”
Schorr went into private practice as an attorney, but maintained his active civic involvement. He’s served on numerous state and local boards and commissions, including the Governor’s Economic Planning and Development Advisory Board and as Chair of the Tucson Pima County Commission on Improved Government Management. He continues to serve on the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Commission and the Tucson Airport Authority.
He was instrumental in the creation of the area’s first community college. “We looked at Phoenix and other locales and we knew we needed a community college here,” he said.
Along with educators Jack Fruchthendler and Maria Urquides, Schorr served on the first board of Pima Community College and was a driving force in getting its flagship campus built on West Anklam Road. That campus opened its doors in 1971, and today PCC serves about 70,000 students across its six campuses.
He’s a founding member of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council and continues to serve on its board.
In 2002, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano appointed Schorr to the State Transportation Board, which also made him a member of the Pima Association of Governments. At the time, PAG was in the process of reformulating the Regional Transportation Authority, which would soon become a force throughout the region. Schorr helped to update legislation and served as the first chair of the RTA board.
The RTA was officially formed in 2004. Its first plan was developed in 2005 by a 35-member citizens committee, and voters approved it in 2006. Since that time, some 770 transportation improvements have been made throughout Southern Arizona.
“The RTA was badly needed,” Schorr said. “By and large, it’s achieved its goals.”
Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry has worked with Schorr many times over the years and believes Schorr was instrumental in transforming the area’s transportation system.
“A transportation system of appropriate capacity and quality is critical to the economic growth and well-being of our community,” Huckelberry said. “Si Schorr’s leadership has been instrumental in the success of the voter-approved RTA plan.”
Schorr and his wife also have been active mental health awareness advocates. Eleanor founded the Southern Arizona Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Schorr served as chair of Gov. Rose Mofford’s Commission on the Mentally Ill.
In her letter of nomination, Sarah Smallhouse said the Schorrs worked tirelessly to improve how the community treats the chronically mentally ill. “They established the Schorr Family Award to recognize those who have promoted better public understanding of mental illness,” she wrote.
In addition to being a senior partner at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie and participating actively in the community, Schorr has been a dedicated father to the four Schorr children, all of whom still live in Tucson, and grandfather to seven. Schorr’s twin sons, Lewis and Andrew, are partners in the same law firm.
When asked how he juggled it all, he said, “I, and others, just find ways to meld community work with family and professional obligations to improve the greater community.”