Written by Diane Krieger | Photographed by Michael Neveux
To Sam Sheth, Torrance Memorial is no ordinary hospital. It’s where
he drew his first breath. Both he and his brother, George, were born in
the original building on Engracia Avenue—delivered by the esteemed
Charles Nemeth, MD, a Torrance Memorial icon who passed away in 2013.
Childhood bumps and bruises kept bringing Sheth back to the hospital, and
an invisible cord still ties the 53-year-old businessman to his birthplace.
“When I broke my wrist on a skateboard in fifth grade, we went to
Torrance Memorial,” says Sheth, now a hospital Foundation board
member and Patron. “When I got a spike in my ankle playing pony
league baseball, I went to Torrance Memorial,” he continues, tallying
an impressive list of adolescent injuries. “When I walked through
a plate glass window in high school, I went to Torrance Memorial. And
when I was in a five-car pileup on the 110 freeway in my senior year,
I went to Torrance Memorial.”
The same was true for his father, mother and brother. “Every time
anybody in our family had to go to the hospital, it was always Torrance
Memorial,” he shares.
So when the family patriarch, Harshad Sheth, fell ill on Thanksgiving in
2012, they rushed him to Torrance Memorial, where he was admitted for
evaluation. After a complete workup, doctors delivered the heartbreaking
diagnosis: advanced, aggressive cancer of the gall bladder.
“We became very close to the hospital then,” Sheth recalls.
“My dad was going through all these tests and treatments, and they
took such wonderful care of him. The physicians and staff were so helpful,
knowledgeable, compassionate. We never felt rushed. It was comforting.”
Harshad and his wife, Bharti, had been Torrance Memorial Foundation Patrons
since 2010. After his father died in early 2013—peacefully, at home,
with his family around him—Sheth got more involved with the Foundation.
He started making sizeable donations. In 2016, he and his wife, Kay, also
joined the Patrons program.
“It has been very rewarding to give back,” Sheth says. “And
it’s a lot easier to ask other people for money when you’re
giving significantly yourself. I tell our friends what a meaningful difference
the hospital made in my dad’s quality of life and just how important
that is to the community.”
While Sam and Kay Sheth are both California natives, India looms large
in both their family histories. Kay was born and raised in San Francisco
in a bicultural home. Her mom’s parents had immigrated from Genoa,
Italy. Her dad was the scion of a prominent family in Tamil Nadu, India,
and the grandson of a famous architect credited with many important civic
buildings in Chennai.
Sheth—co-founder and senior managing director of VerityPoint, a boutique
consulting firm—is the child of Gujarati immigrants who achieved
the American dream. His father, Harshad, had come from Gujarat, India,
in 1959 to study mechanical engineering at USC. He earned a master’s
degree in metallurgical engineering at UCLA before starting his career
at the Armco Steel plant in Torrance, one of the nation’s largest.
There weren’t many other South Asians in California back then. “My
dad was one of the early ones,” Sheth says. When Indian prime minister
Jawaharlal Nehru paid a visit to Los Angeles in 1963, Harshad was tapped
to organize a meet-and-greet for the ex-pat community. “My dad rounded
up all the adults from India in Southern California that he could find.
It was only 85 people.”
After finishing his education, Harshad went home to Gujarat with a plan
to immigrate to the United States. Six weeks later he returned with his
bride, Bharti, and they laid permanent roots in Southern California.
“He became an extremely patriotic American,” Sheth says. “My
dad was actually born on the 4th of July. He loved everything about this
country and imbued us with that same sense of patriotism to this great
Through the 1970s and ’80s, the Southland remained far less multicultural
than it is today. Sheth vividly recalls being almost the only South Asian
kid at Howard Wood Elementary School and Dapplegray Intermediate School.
Today, about 150,000 people of Indian heritage live in the region.
The first few years were challenging, but the Sheth family persevered.
“It was the classic immigrant story,” Sheth says. “My
parents worked hard. It was unbelievable what they managed to do on my
dad’s income in the early days.”
The oldest of six children, Harshad helped two younger brothers settle
in America, helping to support them through college and watching them
get established in their professions. “My first uncle came and lived
with us in 1969,” Sheth recalls. “His youngest brother came
and lived with us starting from 1977.”
Then it was Bharti’s turn.
“My mom had been an outstanding student in India, but she put her
education on hold to have kids,” Sheth says. When her boys were
old enough to start school, Bharti enrolled at Cal State Dominguez Hills
as a math major.
“My dad was very supportive of her education,” Sheth says.
“If she had to study on the weekends, he and my uncle would take
us out for the day. But she was pretty amazing. Going to college with
two young sons at home, she made it look easy. Dinner was always on the
table, our clothes were always washed, the house was always neat.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree, Bharti earned her master’s
degree in biostatistics at the UCLA School of Public Health, where she
caught the eye of doctorate students Fred Wasserman and Pam Anderson,
founders of Maxicare Health Plans. They recruited her as chief biostatistician
for California’s first HMO, and Bharti embarked on a pioneering
role in the medical data industry.
Meanwhile, Harshad’s engineering career thrived. During his years
with Armco Steel (later National Oilwell), Harshad was awarded six patents
for metal alloys. When the company moved to Houston in 1984, Harshad opted
to stay in California and focus on distributing his patented products
internationally. He later sold that business to a friend, Gordon Shultz,
and then managed that business at Shultz Steel until his retirement in 2012.
Like his parents, Sam Sheth works hard, prioritizes family, shares his
resources generously and somehow makes it all look easy. In addition to
supporting Torrance Memorial, he is a passionate advocate for Junior Achievement—a
global organization with the mission of educating children in financial
literacy and entrepreneurship. Sheth has been active in the JA SoCal chapter
since 1997, serving as a past board chairman. For the last dozen years,
he has chaired the development committee.
“I’ve helped to raise a lot of money for Junior Achievement,”
he says, “but what I love most is getting in the classroom.”
The group dispatches 4,000 volunteers into hundreds of K–12 schools
across L.A. County, reaching nearly 60,000 students annually.
“I just love the idea of teaching kids to make good financial decisions
and become entrepreneurs,” he says. “Being able to tell them
my story—how my family lived the American dream by doing the very
things Junior Achievement is trying to teach—it’s very personal.”
Sheth’s third institutional passion is UCLA. He’d entered as
a pre-med freshman in 1985 but experienced a nauseating change of heart
upon observing an open-heart surgery. He ended up majoring in business-economics—a
hybrid concentration that merges accounting and finance with economics.
So enthusiastic was Sheth about the program that he started the Economics
Business Student Association as a junior. He met his future wife, Kay,
through that group.
A few years later, Sheth founded Bruins in Business, an alumni network
for business-economics graduates. He later served on the board of the
UCLA Alumni Association and the UCLA Board of Governors, and he continues
to mentor current UCLA students.
As for Kay, what started as a college friendship blossomed into romance
at Peterson Consulting, where she and Sheth both landed early in their
careers. Since intra-office relationships were frowned upon, Sheth resigned
once they became engaged. His consulting career subsequently took him
to Compensation Resource Group, a small Pasadena firm he and his partners
later sold to Clark Consulting.
In 2007, Sheth and his partners split off from Clark Consulting to launch
VerityPoint. The firm provides nonqualified retirement programs and employee
benefits consulting services to more than 100 large public and private
companies across a variety of industries.
Meanwhile, the Sheth family was also growing. Kay left her position as
a principal at Tucker Alan Consulting in 2001 after the birth of their
second child. Older daughter Julia, 22, graduated from Columbia University
last spring and is a software engineer with Microsoft based in New York
City. Sabrina, 20, is a musician and artist currently studying music production
and songwriting through UCLA Extension.
When the girls were younger, Kay was active in the Manhattan Beach schools
and community, including board positions on the PTA, Manhattan Beach Education
Foundation, National Charity League and TEDxMB. She now pours her energy
into Planned Parenthood and other nonprofits.
And she keeps an eye out for promising new ventures. She is our family
CFO,” Sheth says.
The Sheths are investors with South Bay hotelier-restaurateur Michael Zislis,
a longtime friend and fellow Torrance Memorial Foundation Patron. They’re
shareholders in Zislis’ Shade Hotels, The Strand House, Rock &
Brews and the Brews Hall. They have also made investments alongside other
entrepreneurs. Sheth and Zislis enjoy working together to recruit other
friends to Torrance Memorial’s Patrons program.
“All this stuff fills my entrepreneurial itch,” says Sheth,
who started his first side business as a kid. “I sold gum at school,”
he says, with a crooked smile. “I also had a paper route. Later
I started a landscaping business. My eighth-grade summer, I was making
$300 a week. I had so much business, I started hiring other kids in the
neighborhood to do the work.”
That entrepreneurial spark makes him a tremendous asset to Torrance Memorial.
And Sheth has never felt prouder of the institution where he first drew
breath. “Over the years, it has gone from being a small community
hospital to a world-class medical institution. We’ve been so impressed
with the leadership,” he says.
He isn’t shy about sharing that perspective. “We’ve been
educating our friends in the South Bay about all the great work going
on at Torrance Memorial. I’ve helped recruit some very generous
donors to the hospital. I tell them: ‘We’re not getting any
younger, and it’s nice to know we have a leading, state-of-the-art
hospital in our community.’”