Goodbye, Dear Friend and Statesman
Two weeks ago, Johns Hopkins University trustee
emeritus Sol Linowitz passed away at the age of 91.
Diplomat, lawyer, businessman and adviser to countless
people — United States presidents, lawyers and
judges, corporate CEOs, journalists, university and college
presidents — Sol was a unique figure. And until age
90, he was actively attending Hopkins trustee meetings.
He began his career as a lawyer in Rochester, N.Y.
Working with one of his clients, the Haloid Corp., to
acquire the license for patents on a new copying
technology, he became a founder and ultimately the chairman
of the Xerox Corp., overseeing the growth of a fledging
company into a multimillion dollar giant. Recruited by
President Lyndon Johnson to become the United States
ambassador to the Organization of Latin American States,
Sol then spent the next four decades of his life in various
diplomatic assignments, including that of negotiating the
Panama Canal Treaty. Under President Carter, Sol was
ambassador to the Middle East, engaging in complex
negotiations with Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem
I happened to be at the Carter Center and met
President Carter there, shortly after he was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize. Seeing several pictures of Ambassador
Linowitz in the displays, I remarked that we had a mutual
colleague. President Carter told me that Sol's work during
his administration was "one of the major reasons why I won
the Nobel Prize."
In 1998, the ambassador was awarded the Presidential
Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. "Receiving
advice from Sol Linowitz on international diplomacy is like
getting trumpet lessons from the angel Gabriel," Clinton
said at the award ceremony, quoting Mack McLarty, a friend
of both men. "If every world leader had half the vision Sol
Linowitz does, we'd have about a 10th as many problems as
we've got in this whole world today."
A recitation of Ambassador Linowitz's accomplishments
would take many pages, and even then, this record of
distinguished public and corporate service would tell only
a portion of the story. Sol was the quintessential
Renaissance man. Lawyer, businessman, statesman, confidant
of and adviser to the powerful and famous, he was part
psychologist, part strategist, part rabbi. An accomplished
violinist, he played in the Utica (N.Y.) Symphony Orchestra
while an undergraduate at Hamilton College. At the core,
Sol was a scholar. As salutatorian of his college
graduating class, he delivered his commencement address in
Latin. I never found out if many in the audience understood
what he said.
He served on the boards of trustees of Hamilton
College, the University of Rochester, Eastman School of
Music, Cornell University and, of course, The Johns Hopkins
University. He placed universities and the Supreme Court at
the top of his list of important institutions. Not simply a
trustee, he was an adviser to college presidents, and I
count myself among the lucky few who received the pearls of
wisdom at his feet. After most trustee meetings, I could
expect a call from Sol for an invitation to a luncheon
meeting. During the salad course, he would compliment me
profusely on how well I had conducted the meeting, and then
proceed over the entree and dessert, gently and very
deftly, to proffer a number of suggestions as to how I
might improve my performance the next time. His thoughts
were always delivered with compassion, and with the goal of
helping me become a better president.
As a trustee at the University of Rochester many years
ago, Sol wrote a pithy article titled "A Liberal Arts
College Is Not a Railroad." Addressing the fundamental
differences between the corporate world and universities,
this piece is so insightful that I frequently hand it out
to new trustees at Hopkins. To give you a flavor of the
ambassador's wit and wisdom, I quote a few passages of the
"To a great extent, the very thing which is often
referred to as the 'inefficient' or 'unbusinesslike' phase
of a liberal arts college's operation is really but an
accurate reflection of its true essential nature. Perhaps
it is worth re-emphasizing what a liberal arts college is
all about: That it seeks to offer a long look into what has
been said, thought and written in the civilizations of the
past and an opportunity to see the workings of different
societies in perspective.
"A liberal education is supposed to give us a feeling
for the depth of our roots and a sense of the stuff of
which we are made. The right kind of liberal education
should create thoughtful and responsible citizens who will
exercise their obligations with moderation and wisdom. Its
essence is, as Plato put it, 'learning to like the right
"A college may offer a course in Persian history, for
example, which only five students will attend. Should we
abolish the course? Or should we hope that the few students
who do learn something of Persian history will thereby
become uniquely qualified to perform some important service
for which this particular aspect of their education has
especially fitted them?"
There he was, years ago, saying that it may not appear
needful, but that someday we may want to have some people
around who knew the history and culture of Persia —
modern-day Iran. How prescient that was. How thoughtful.
And how like Sol Linowitz.
Goodbye, Mr. Ambassador. Johns Hopkins University has
benefited greatly from your many years of dedicated
service. And my life is richer, indeed, having been touched
by your wisdom, grace, friendship and humor.
William R. Brody is president
of The Johns Hopkins University.