Web Exclusives: Bonus Stories

September 11, 2002:

Remarks made at the dedication of the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University on June 2, 2002

Henry Posner, Jr. '41:

About the time I came to Princeton in 1937, there was a cartoon that depicted a veterinarian about to administer medication to a horse. The way he did this was to place the medication in a tube, put the tube down the horse's throat and blow. The cartoon depicted the veterinarian as greatly distressed, and the caption read: "The horse blew first!"

There were eight of us who came to Princeton from Shady Side Academy out of a class of 35, and we were pretty self-confident – we thought we had the world by the tail on a downhill pull. But for me, Princeton blew first. We found ourselves in a very open-minded atmosphere – inquisitive and somewhat irreverent. Coming from the very closely controlled atmosphere of a small school it was somewhat distressing, but it opened a window on a whole new world and I am very grateful for that opportunity. It is very special of the faculty, the administration and the trustees to be able to reinvent Princeton in these times of such change. But if anyone had said to me in my years at Princeton that there would be a Center for Jewish Life on this campus at Princeton University, I would have suggested he have his head examined.

I am very appreciative for the opportunity to have attended Princeton and for the opportunity to have known Harold and Vivian Shapiro, and for what they have done for this university. Princeton was a remarkable experience for me, and it is a remarkable institution. And I am very appreciative for the opportunity to be here today.

Henry Posner III '77:

Many of you may be wondering how an institution with an $8 billion endowment – and generally considered to be the best university on the planet – would be a place where people could still make a difference. I would like to give credit for what my family has done in recognition of the achievements of Harold and Vivian Shapiro for not only the consistent improvements at the university, but also for having changed the culture of the university.

I think the danger of being the world’s best university is the feeling that the outside world really doesn’t matter. But one of the benefits of Jewish affiliation is that you find yourself enmeshed with people all over the world in a way in which you can make a difference. While it is great that we take care of each other within the many Jewish communities here in the U.S., we must remember that we not only have the opportunity, but also are obliged to go beyond “Princeton in the Nation’s Service”. Princeton as it serves the world is increasingly something we can and should do.

If anything can come of this center, it is that it will help the Jewish students at Princeton become more focused on who they are. The great Jewish scholar Anne Molloy and her D’vor Torah after September 11th made the comment, “You should remember where you come from.” It makes sense because a greater focus on where we come from serves as a firmer jumping off point for service to Jews everywhere.

I would like to close by leaving everyone with a sense of obligation; that it is not good enough to use this facility, but that you must use it for the furtherance of the greater cause. T’Kun Olam – Heal the World!

President, emeritus, Harold T. Shapiro:

It is a great pleasure for Vivian and me to be here and a special pleasure that some of our children and grandchildren and, of course, my mother are here with us. Today is a special time for our whole family.
To some extent this is an unusual dedication. As University President, especially if you look at all the construction going on within campus the last decade or so, there were a lot of dedications that I attended. All those dedications except for today were at the beginning of something. Something was beginning and we had hopes, but whether it would work out or not was something for the future; it was a statement of faith.

The CJL (Center for Jewish Life) is very seasoned, as you know. I felt that while I was still serving as President it would be inappropriate to have a ceremony like this. So they were kind enough to put it off until now. The benefit is that we now have our prospective fellowship way beyond hope and we’re into the faith stage where the faith is well justified. And in that respect we really want to thank all the students, the faculty and Rabbi Diamond in particular, and colleagues for making this a very successful organization. I can remember talking to the trustees when we were thinking about this center and such events, that it would not be enough if this were just successful for Jewish students. Helping Jewish students would be a very good thing, but it really wouldn’t be enough; it had to strengthen the university, strengthen the university’s community and have a broad reach to get this effect. It’s good to serve the Jewish students, important to serve them, but that was not enough. Now that you’ve added to the work of Rabbi Diamond and his colleagues to active leadership that has been a part of this center, it has been very rewarding. And now it is a double pleasure for Vivian and myself to have ourselves recognized with the CJL as it goes forward.

I want to say a special word about the Posners. One of the great experiences about being President of a university like Princeton is that you meet very unusual and very wonderful people. And the Posners are certainly in that category. I have visited with them a number of times at their office and in their homes in Pittsburgh; and there is something very unusual about them; something very broad about their outlook and unique about their commitments; and most of all something very clear about what they believe and what they care about. And I feel that I’ve learned something from them from my recent associations with them. Both Henrys and Anne and Helen, it really is a special pleasure for Vivian and me to have our names associated with yours because that will bring memories to us as we think about this over the years and hope our friendship will continue as we see each other on many other occasions. This is a very special part from our perspective.

And of course the other donors, some of whom are here who made this possible, are helping this community; it’s not just the Posners but others who are now recognized on the plaque that we put up two months ago. They made this possible along with the work of so many communities such as the faculty. So a lot of people and a lot of devotion have gone into this and some of that hope will continue to be important for Princeton and for what Princeton does and for what Princeton stands for. It will certainly be a very memorable aspect of my experience here.

I have had a chance to be here in this area for the best years of CJL. We have had many joyful visits here and look forward to many more. Thank you all very much for coming, and celebrate the success of today!

Toast by Rabbi Diamond:

Henry Posner Jr., Class of '41, and Helen M. Posner

Henry Posner III, Class of '77, and Anne M. Molloy

Harold and Vivian Shapiro

This toast is to the spirit of this great, great university and embodied in the individuals that we have all recognized this morning. A traditional Jewish toast to life. L'Chaim!