Town Hall Board/President (2014-2023)
Sam Cheris lived in many worlds. A typical day in his life may have included:
- an international conference call to help resolve a rules issue which had arisen during an
ongoing fencing competition
- a discussion with a local small business client regarding succession planning
- drafting a procedure proposal for consideration by the Colorado Bar Association
- attendance at a THAC meeting to discuss long range physical plant requirements
- all followed by a quick trip to the airport to jump on a flight to Lausanne, Switzerland for yet more fencing meetings.
For those of us mere mortals, a rather challenging and frenzied existence – for Sam…total normalcy.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, 1945, Sam exhibited his problem solving skills at a very young age when he informed his mother that he did not wish to attend the public high school within walking distance of his home, but rather had applied to and been accepted by Brooklyn Technical High School, known for its more progressive curriculum. It is at Brooklyn Tech that he was introduced to the sport of fencing, and according to Sam, “That started an affair with the sport that has lasted for 63 years.”
From Brooklyn Tech, Sam moved on to Brooklyn College for his undergraduate degree, and as a young person growing up in the New York area, developed a love for the cultural aspects of life in addition to sports. His proximity to the great New York theaters provided him the opportunity to enjoy live theater; and during summer and winter holiday college breaks, Sam had charge of all youth activities for a resort in the Catskill Mountains, met many of the great “Borscht Belt” stage performers of that time, and assisted with sound and lighting requirements during their performances.
Upon graduation from Brooklyn College, Sam moved on to Stanford (“because the weather was better at Stanford than at Harvard”…) where he received both MBA and Juris Doctor degrees in 1971. After a two year stint at the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., Sam joined the local Denver law firm of Hall and Evans and specialized in mergers and acquisitions for closely held businesses. He spent 28 years at the company, became a partner, and was designated as a “Super Lawyer” multiple times.
His ‘love affair’ with fencing, however, never diminished. He was, as noted by a dear friend, “…a giant in the beautiful, athletic, romantic and political world of sport fencing…many who have made USA Fencing a world power and who made International Fencing a better organization, stood either on Sam’s shoulders or under his wing.” Because most of Fencing’s international board and business meetings were conducted in French, Sam taught himself French to be able to follow along and join in as needed. He subsequently persuaded International Fencing to adopt English as well as Spanish as official languages, and today the official language of international fencing is English. The positions he held over the years for USA Fencing included Treasurer and President, as well as membership on countless committees. On the international side, Sam served on the Executive Committee, Promotions Commission, President of the Fencing Officials Commission from 2008 through 2021), and Chair of the Legal Commission for 18 years. He was inducted into both the USA and international Halls of Fame and the International Federation also gave him the highest recognition by making him a “Member of Honor”. He attended, in official capacity, 7 of the last 9 Olympic Games. As his final contribution to the sport, Sam formulated, with input from USAFencing Staff and other fencing dignitaries, a Leadership Forum to help develop and train the future leaders of the USAFencing organization.
How Sam managed to juggle his demanding law practice and his fencing addiction becomes even more remarkable when you consider his outreach efforts to the local community as well. Sam served in leadership and/or board roles for International Hearing Dog (founding board member 1978 – 2021); Board of Directors of the Colorado Society of CPS’s, which very recently bestowed upon him a Distinguished Service Award; the Aurora and Colorado Bar Associations, the Colorado chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, and of course the Littleton Town Hall Arts Center.
Sam was instrumental in guiding the organization through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking on the role of operations chief in the absence of an Executive Director. Sam also took a keen interest in the professional development of the organization’s staff, always quick to advocate for more opportunities for each member to grow. As Chair of the Programming Committee, Sam brought201 his refined perspective to what the organization should produce on stage, and had a knack for understanding the ever changing (and expanding) audience of Town Hall Arts Center.
There was always a twinkle in his eye when Sam mentioned that he was President of the Theater. He was amused by the fact that a kid who grew up in Brooklyn could make an impact on the cultural world as well, and he was extremely proud and fond of this particular organization.
Sam will be sorely missed for his unswerving integrity, his demand for excellence in organizational structure and behavior, and his never-ending love of guiding, teaching, problem solving, and making any organization he touched stronger and more fully sustainable.
As noted by his 14-year old grandson in a class paper concerning a person that he admired, “Sam Cheris has led an amazing life, and we can all live by his example.”