Dr. Norman Lamm and former
Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, keynote
speaker at convocation.

The Day a Nobody
Became President

By Tim Boxer

ORMAN LAMM was introduced so magnanimously at Yeshiva University’s Hannukah dinner and convocation at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, that he remarked to board chairman Robert Beren, “I wonder if you would repeat those words to my wife.”

There was much love in the Waldorf-Astoria’s grand ballroom, not only from his wife but also from the 1,100 guests gathered for what was presumably Dr. Lamm’s last appearance at the annual event.

Lamm, who is retiring in June after 25 years as university president, recalled his first day on the job. He wanted to mingle with his constituency, so he went to the dining room. There were three prices for students, faculty and outsiders.

He brought his tray to the cashier who asked, “Are you a student?”


“Are you faculty?”


“Are you an outsider?”


“So you’re a nobody.”

When people ask him what he’ll do in retirement, Lamm answers with a quote from the Kotzker Rebbe who said, “I have met many people who were long dead, but didn’t realize it.”

“I hope not to die before I am dead,” Lamm said.

Lamm, who will become YU chancellor, said he’ll keep busy learning Latin, Greek, the classics and learning wisdom from his grandchildren.

Recalling what Gen. Douglas MacArthur said – “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away” – Lamm said, “Old presidents never die, they just lose their faculties.”

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