Robert “Bobby” Silverstein Photo courtesy of Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville PC

Robert “Bobby” Silverstein, an attorney who served as a government relations advisor to several Gallaudet presidents, passed away on November 17. He was 73 years old.

According to an appreciation from Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville PC, where he had been a principal since 2007, Silverstein was known as the behind-the-scenes architect of 20 pieces of federal legislation impacting persons with disabilities, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. “Bobby was the epitome of the consummate professional, revered for his analytical skills while also incredibly thoughtful and compassionate.”

“Highly regarded on Capitol Hill as well as throughout the nation as an authority on disability issues, Bobby has been praised by legislators and staff, disability leaders, clients, and colleagues for his commitment to bipartisanship, his principles, dedication and hard work, and tireless advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities. Always humble, Bobby often blushed when anyone referred to his very long list of amazing accomplishments.”

Silverstein served in various capacities in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He was staff director and chief counsel for the Subcommittee on Disability Policy of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources (now the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions). In that role, he negotiated and drafted bipartisan, consensus-based legislation that has had a lasting, positive impact on persons with disabilities.

President Emeritus I. King Jordan, ’70 & H-’14, remembers Silverstein fondly. “I first met Bobby Silverstein very shortly after I became president. At the time, he was chief aide to Senator Tom Harkin, H-’91, who was Chair of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources. The Gallaudet president was required to testify before that committee and it was during my very first month on the job when I did so. Bobby was very supportive and helpful in preparing me for that testimony.”

“At the same time, Bobby was serving as Chief Counsel for the Subcommittee on Disability Policy. In that role, he was key to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Senator Harkin was the main Senate sponsor of the ADA, and Bobby worked miracles to help the legislation become truly bipartisan,” continued Dr. Jordan. “For many years after the passage of the ADA, Bobby continued to support Gallaudet and me personally. He was a genuinely good person and I was pleased to be able to call him a friend.”

Silverstein wrote several peer-reviewed journal articles and over 100 papers and articles on public policy issues from a disability perspective.  He served as a keynote speaker before multiple national and state organizations and facilitated training sessions in more than 40 states on various public policy issues and the policymaking process. He received dozens of national awards, including the Distinguished Service Award of the President of the United States.

From 1997 to 2007, Silverstein served as director of the Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy. From 1997 to 2000, he also served as an Associate Professor of Health Care Sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and as an Associate Professor of Health Services Management and Policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. 

Silverstein is survived by his wife of 51 years, Lynne Silverstein; two sons and their spouses, four grandchildren, and four siblings and their spouses and children. Funeral services were held on November 22 at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia. 

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