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Levine Chapels

OBITUARY

Melvin E. Scovell

Melvin E., Scovell, formerly of Brockton, Newton, Waltham and Cambridge on June 5, 2021. Devoted husband of the late Cynthia (Cohn) Scovell. Exceptional father to Julie & her husband Mark Kaufman; Alice; Nell & her husband Colin Summers; Ted & his wife Gail; Claire & her husband Rob LaZebnik. Adored grandfather of Eric (& wife Cori) & Adam (& wife Molly) Kaufman; Emma (& husband Hal Emmer), Teddy (& wife Laura Cain) & Libby Coleman; Rudy & Dexter Summers; Freddy Scovell; and Max, Johnny, Annie & Will LaZebnik. Delighted great-grandfather of Harper, Jordan & Remi Kaufman, Quinn, Asher & Hudson Kaufman, Sophie Emmer. For the last 16 years, he was a committed partner of Lilla Waltch of Cambridge.

Except for stints at Yale (A.B., Class of 1949) and serving as a U.S. Army Sergeant at Fort Eustis, he lived in the Boston area. He worked as an executive at the Morse Shoe Company until the Sixties when he decided to use his management expertise to help low-income communities. In 1969, he teamed with pediatrician Gerald Hass to found the South End Community Health Center with a mission “to provide the highest quality, culturally and linguistically sensitive, coordinated health care and social services to every patient regardless of their ability to pay.” The SECHC thrived nd became a case study in public health graduate programs. In 1971, Governor Frank Sargent appointed him Assistant Commissioner, Mass. Department of Public Welfare, where he oversaw the state Medicaid program for two years. Next, he partnered with Chuck Schwager to create “Scovell and Schwager, Inc.” Their business cards stated, “Honest health care consultants.” His projects included serving as Executive Director of the Greater Lawrence Mental Health Center, court-appointed receiver and Director of the Dimock Community Health Center, as well as director of community health centers and other human service programs, including Columbia Point, South Boston, Charles Drew, and the Martha Elliot Division of the Children’s Hospital. He was a founding member of the Mass. League of Community Health Centers, Founding Chairman of the Board of Vinfen, co-founder and Chair of the Democratic State Committee Subcommittee on Health, and member of the Harvard Medical and Dental School Human Studies Committee. He served on boards including the Massachusetts NARAL Pro-Choice Foundation (Board Chair), Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center (Board Chair), Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, The Gifford School in Weston, and the New England Conservatory of Music. He also mentored many NEC musicians which gave him great pleasure. For decades, he was a Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry of the Harvard Medical School and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Boston University Medical School.

A virtual memorial will be scheduled at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, The New England Conservatory of Music, or the ACLU.

Services

  • A virtual memorial will be scheduled at a later date.

Memories

Melvin E. Scovell

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Allison Coleman

June 20, 2021

Mel Scovell was a great mentor to me in the early 1990s, while I was working at the Massachusetts Industrial Finance Agency. He was acting as a consultant to the Provider Lease Program, helping the agency deal with a financially troubled human service provider. I learned more from him working on that project than I learned from my MBA studies. I would meet with him at his house in Waltham and basically had a graduate tutorial in Medicaid and billing practices and, in the process, learned how to dissect a balance sheet and income statement to diagnose the root of financial problems. Cynthia would make us lunch and we would strategize about how to go about fixing the problems while preserving the services.

He came up with a brilliant idea to buy a set of second mortgages from the FDIC, originally issued by the Eliot Savings Bank, then in bankruptcy. MIFA eventually bought those mortgages at a steep discount and turned around and gave the savings to the providers in the program, keeping several of them solvent in the process.

He also introduced me to community health centers and greatly influenced my approach to developing financing programs for health centers in Massachusetts and nationally. Without Mel's guidance and inspiration, I would not have found my way to what's turned out to be my life's work. Now, after 26 years working in the health center movement, I am deeply indebted to Mel and very thankful to him for helping to guide me along my path. While I send my condolences to his family, I celebrate his great legacy; his influence continues to ripple outward in profound ways.

Arnold Flashner

June 14, 2021

Had the good future of working for Mel, when at Morse Shoe. He was an excellent teacher and thoughtful advisor. He mentored me for several years and it was most rewarding.

Eugene Kohn

June 8, 2021

A friend when one was needed.

Respect for one with personal values and commitments that sustained his family and many others in the broader community.

Mel will be missed.

Judy and Gene Kohn

Carol Topjian

June 8, 2021

I learned, today, of the passing of a great and good man, my mentor and friend, Mel Scovell. Mel forsook his Ivy League and corporate worlds to pioneer the delivery of comprehensive health care to the poor in Massachusetts. He was well known among local, state and national public health policy circles as a visionary and do-er. He was smart, smart, smart and as compassionate and tough as he was smart and he enriched the life of anyone who knew him. I was so incredibly luck to have worked for him and to have been touched by his wisdom. Mel Scovell, surely, leaves a very big hole in this world of ours.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY