Max Block, Two Generations Later
Ruminations on a Grandfather’s Influence

By Daniel J. Sherman

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SEPTEMBER 2005 - In 1963, when I was born, Max Block, a founding partner of the firm Anchin Block & Anchin, became a grandfather for the fifth and final time. I was called Danny until around age 20, and he was always simply Grandpa to me.

Growing up as Max’s grandson was at times daunting. Max was a consummate businessman: brilliant, eloquent, sure, and demanding, and his game face was well regarded (his home face as well). My grandfather was also an accomplished classical pianist; having never had a lesson, he learned to play totally “by ear.” The first Block residence that I remember was more of a place of mystery, with secret upstairs rooms and haunting sounds of creaks and chimes, than a warm and hamisha haven for family gatherings. The secret rooms were actually only my mother’s and aunt’s bedrooms, long vacated, but the upstairs was accessed only by a staircase hidden behind a closet door; the stairs and the empty, musty rooms were fodder for a grandchild’s imagination.

For me, Max’s office was the most memorable room in the house. The walls seemed completely lined with bookshelves, leaded glass windows were opposite the desk, and a tall bronze lamp shaped like the Spirit of St. Louis (with a spinning propeller) adorned the entrance. Oriental rugs covered the floors, and dark red velvet curtains draped the windows. The desk, massive and ornate, and never without a yellow legal pad of corrections or notes on some editorial project, epitomized my grandfather completely. He was, after all, not only the first CPA to be inducted in the NYSSCPA’s Hall of Fame, but also the editor of what is now The CPA Journal. Editing was not just Max’s job, it was his passion. I recently heard a story about a time when Max, after returning a submission to its author for rewrites three times, finally just commented: “Ah, forget it, it’s not worthy of the Journal.”

Max believed heavily in reputation—the reputation of his firm, the reputation of the Journal, and his own professional reputation. He also believed that all young people should be concerned about their own future reputations. The handshake was of particular importance. My grandfather very clearly told me that a strong handshake is one of the most important things in business: “A man is judged by his handshake; it must be firm.”

During my early teens, Max moved to White Plains, N.Y., around the corner from my family’s home. Our relationship in those years focused mostly on my parents’ clear orders that I shovel his driveway or weed his garden, “before he tries to do it himself.” College was when Max began to shape my life significantly. The older grandchildren showed no interest in accounting, so I was his last hope. After weeding or shoveling, he would invite me to sit on the porch and “discuss.” My grandfather, standing no more than five feet tall on a good day and rumored to have an IQ of more than 180, would explain to me that in our family, “we measure people from the neck up.” According to Max, being both articulate and knowledgeable about many matters of the world was important to being successful in business.

Endless summer afternoons were spent listening to my grandfather extol the pitfalls and virtues of organized religion versus secular humanism; he himself chose to remain neutral in his beliefs. Charity, Max insisted, was of paramount importance in shaping the young business executive’s character. He must have given to every charity that ever sent him a mailer, some to some, but much to many. He lectured me about money: “Its importance must be viewed in context to its ability to further science, social interaction, the arts, proper political points of view, those less fortunate, and your own passions.”

Max Block was often quoted about—and caught practicing—what he preached: the importance of CPAs giving back to the profession. Among other things, Max taught accounting at Baruch College of the City University of New York, edited and wrote articles for The CPA Journal, mentored young CPAs at his firm, spoke at accounting conventions around the world, and volunteered through the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). Several accounting scholarship and article awards bear his name posthumously.

Although editing was my grandfather’s passion, it was only one of several; he adored my grandmother, his two daughters, his grandchildren, playing and listening to classical music, and pontificating about the philosophy of anything. Max taught me to be who I am. Although I did not ultimately follow his path in accounting, I believe my handshake is firm, I’ve been told that I speak fluently and with conviction, and I have studied and worked hard to meet the high standards that are my grandfather’s legacy. Growing up two generations removed from Max Block was more than beneficial, it was an honor.


Daniel J. Sherman is a senior investment management consultant, senior vice president—investments, and financial planning specialist at a leading national financial services firm. At the NYSSCPA’s 108th annual election meeting and dinner on May 18, 2005, he presented the 2004 Max Block Distinguished Article Awards to their winners.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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