Evelyn Langlieb Greer

The Catalyst

Miami businesswoman and civic activist Evelyn Langlieb Greer ’73 is a relentless advocate working to empower local communities

By Carl Schreck

Spring 2012

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Growing up as the daughter of Auschwitz survivors, Miami real estate entrepreneur Evelyn Langlieb Greer ’73 acutely grasped the dangers of disenfranchisement. “The injustice my parents suffered during the war deeply influenced my perception of the importance of not living at the will and whim of others,” says Greer, president of Greer Properties, which has developed and operated commercial real estate for the past 30 years.

It was this understanding, the East Bronx native says, that sparked her interest in civic activism and ultimately helped inspire her to pursue a side career in the tempestuous world of Florida politics.

After holding elected office for 12 years, Greer is now working behind the scenes on an issue that has been a driving passion in her life for decades: improving public schools.

Together with local business leaders and lawyers, she has organized a private-sector coalition pushing for increased funding of South Florida schools, which Greer says are often shortchanged by legislators from outside districts.

“We are formulating ways to change laws in Tallahassee to give local governments more resources,” Greer says of her latest civic initiative. “We want to fight fire with fire. We want to use lobbying and personal political connections in the public interest—pro bono rather than pro malo.”

Greer, who has served on the boards of numerous companies and philanthropic organizations, has a track record that bodes well for her efforts aimed at improving local schools. After moving to Miami with her husband, Bruce Greer ’73, she founded Greer Properties in 1976. The young attorney purchased her first shopping mall with legal fees she had earned while working on behalf of plaintiffs in a large class action lawsuit brought against a multilevel marketing company. Greer then proceeded to establish herself as a player in Miami’s real estate market and used her expertise in the field to help inspire an incorporation drive by Miami-area communities seeking greater influence on zoning issues.

She led the campaign to incorporate the Village of Pinecrest, and a wave of nearby communities followed suit. Pinecrest residents rewarded Greer in 1996 by electing her as the town’s first mayor.

“[The incorporation push] was a reflection of the maturity of the citizenry in wanting to exercise more control over the political process that was affecting development in their communities,” she says.

After being elected to the Miami-Dade County School Board in 2004, Greer successfully advocated for the construction of seven new schools to relieve rampant classroom overcrowding in the South Miami-Dade area. She considers it one of the greatest achievements of her political career.

“This was the most diverse district represented on the entire school board, and it had long been neglected,” she says.

Having left the board in 2008, Greer says she has no plans to seek public office again. Amid an increasingly vituperative political dialogue at both the national and local levels, promoting positive change from outside the system appears to be a more viable strategy, she says.

Greer, however, is wary of rigidity when it comes to the future. After all, before immersing herself in zoning issues, she never envisioned a future in politics. “You have to be open to things that come along that aren’t necessarily in your five-year plan,” she says. “I would have never had these opportunities if I hadn’t taken advantage of a specific moment in time.”

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Photographed by Jeffery Salter