Robert Burchmore Fraser, the son of the late Alfred and Helen Fraser of
Wellesley, died peacefully at his home in Jamaica
Plain on June 23. He was 87.
Bob graduated from Wellesley High School (1946), Harvard College (1949) and Harvard Law
School (1952). He became a corporate lawyer with a lifelong passion for public education and for the arts in Boston, the city that he loved.
He is survived by his spouse, Hui Z. Liao, and former spouse Mary-Ann
Fraser of Salem; a sister, Marilyn Fraser, of Sarasota,
Florida; his children, Melanie Fraser Hart of Riverside, Rhode Island,
Jennifer Fraser, son-in-law, James Boyd, of Auburndale,
Matthew Fraser of Salem; and grandchildren Robert Fraser
Hart, Callula Hart, Xander Boyd, Madeline Boyd, Lucas Boyd, Paxton Boyd,
Seamus Boyd, and Hayden Boyd.
Bob joined the Boston law firm, Goodwin Procter & Hoar, in 1955, after
serving in the United States Army in Korea. He practiced corporate law
with a specialty in taxation matters. He loved his work and brought to
his practice a sharp wit, an impressive breadth of knowledge and a
consummate professionalism. With a mandate to align the firm’s
organization, operations and governance, Bob was named the firm’s
first full-time Managing Partner in 1984 and he became its chairman in
1993. He led the firm for more than a dozen years, retiring in 1997.
Goodwin more than doubled in size under Bob’s leadership. It entered
the 1990’s as the “largest law firm under one roof in the
country,” according to Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. Bob’s most
enduring contribution was his development of the firm’s institutional
culture; he encouraged his partners to think like an organization rather
than a collection of individuals and practices. He encouraged his
colleagues to go beyond the boundaries of comfortable tradition and
experience with his inimitable “walk the halls” management style.
Bob encouraged the firm to become more involved in the City of Boston.
With his guidance, the firm looked outward, providing its support to the
City of Boston and its people and institutions. Perhaps the fullest
expression of that support was a $1 million charitable endowment the
Goodwin partnership donated to the Boston Public Schools in recognition
of the firm’s 75th anniversary in 1987. It was called SEED (Support
for Early Education Development) and was, at the time, the largest
donation of its kind ever made by a professional services firm.
Bob devoted countless hours of his own time to educational issues in the
City of Boston, meeting after hours and on weekends with concerned
community leaders and residents. His thoughtful and committed approach
led to involvement with many of the city’s significant education
initiatives and organizations, including leadership positions with the
Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools, Boston Adult Literacy
Fund, Boston Partners in Education, American Student Assistance
Corporation, Citywide Educational Coalition, Massachusetts Commission on
the Common Core of Learning, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
Education Committee, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, and
Boston Bar Association Task Force on Public Education.
He committed his time and leadership to many of the area’s
institutions of higher learning, serving as a Trustee of Lesley College,
on the Dean’s Advisory Council at Harvard Graduate School of
Education, and on the Board of Visitors for both Northeastern University
College of Business Administration and Bunker Hill Community College. He
also served in leadership positions and on the Boards of Boston Against
Drugs, the Boston Private Industry Council, the Boston Public Library
Foundation, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Jobs for
Massachusetts, and the Boston Public Health Commission.
Bob was a long-time champion of the arts. He was a classically trained
pianist who studied with Alexander Borovsky in college and Roberto Poli
in his later years. Bob performed with the Boston Pops and the Boston
Bar Association Orchestra. Music was a vital part of Bob’s life, and
in retirement he competed internationally in amateur piano competitions,
most recently in Boston and Berlin, where he was voted “Most Favored
Pianist” his by fellow competitors. Bob facilitated the Rhapsody Piano
Group and was an active member of the Boston Piano Amateurs Association.
He opened his home for Rhapsody meetings and master classes, and his
talent and enthusiasm for piano performance and his generosity and
support for all amateur pianists was inspiring. Bob served on the Boards
of the New England Conservatory of Music and the Boston Lyric Opera, and
was chairman of the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts, an
organization providing pro bono services for artists.
Selfless, subtle and principled, and a great teacher and listener, Bob
was beloved by all who knew him. He found spirituality and transcendence
through devotion to family, work and music. He rests now, leaving a
legacy of devotion to community and family. A life well lived.