On Dan Sachs and the Creation of the Scholarship

Charles Gillispie, at Princeton, November, 2007

Charles Gillispie greets Sachs Scholars who gather to select the new Sachs Scholar.  The next day, in his apartment in Princeton, Charles remembers Dan Sachs and the formation of the Sachs Scholarship.

Charles Gillispie, at Princeton, April 1995

Sometime after Dan had been assigned to me as a freshman adviser in 1956, we discovered we both had our roots in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. We talked of many things beside academic matters, though those too, during his undergraduate years, and continued the conversations by letters and a few visits throughout his time at Oxford.

His illness began after his first year at Harvard Law School, in the summer of 1964. The cancer first appeared in the knee he had injured in the Penn game his sophomore year and further damaged a number of times thereafter, in football at Princeton and rugby at Oxford. He and the former Joan Lundstrom were married in the chapel in September 1964, and Alexandra was born in September 1966. Dan finished law school in 1966 and, between operations, got a job with a law firm in Allentown. Dan, Joan, and Alexandra were then living with Leila, his mother, in Bethlehem. His father had been lost in the Air Force at the end of the War.

It was evident by the spring of 1967 that Dan was not going to win over the cancer. The thought of doing something constructive occurred simultaneously and spontaneously to a number of friends, some connected with football, who then approached me—notably Royce Flippin ’56, Mort Chute ’56, John Trubee ’54*, Lucy Caldwell, and football coach Dick Coleman. Others involved were older alumni, notably trustee emeritus Dean Mathey and Jack McCarthy, whose Princeton law firm Dan had worked in one summer. The classmates most immediately concerned were Jack Horton, also at Oxford on a Rhodes with Dan, and Evan Kimble. Equally spontaneous was the notion of a fund, of which the income would be useful to Dan’s family as long as they might need it, and which would then support a memorial scholarship of some sort.

What sort? There the suggestion came from Bob Goheen, then president of the university, who had a uniquely broad knowledge both of the university and of scholarship programs in general. He had often, he said, wished that Princeton had something to offer an appropriate senior wishing to continue studying abroad, an opportunity comparable to the Sheldon Travelling Fellowships at Harvard. Everyone involved resonated to that suggestion, and I wrote immediately to Oxford—to Eric Williams, secretary of the Rhodes Trust, and to Lord Franks, provost of Worcester. News of Dan’s situation had already reached Oxford, and both men were entirely receptive to the general, indeed the specific, outline of the terms of the Scholarship. The definition was precisely that which with you are all familiar, including the provision that applicants might choose whether they wished to study at Oxford or to propose an independent project.

In early June, Dan’s doctor at University Hospital felt he must tell him that the chemotherapy for which he had been making periodic visits to Philadelphia was failing, and that he should make his provisions. Dan sent for me at once. We had already spoken of the possibility of a Trust, but only in very general terms. I now asked whether he was willing to have friends sponsor a fund. He was indeed, and wanted to talk of details. I told him what was being thought of, a graduating scholarship that would eventually do for others what his time at Oxford had done for him. “That has scope,” he said, and smiled. I then asked him who he would wish to be responsible for overseeing such a Trust. He thought for several minutes, and named his two best friends at Oxford, Matthew Nimetz and Bob Orrill, along with Jack Horton, his brother Bill, and myself. Three weeks later Dan died.

You all know of the happy event in consequence of which—among other fine things—Dan’s family no longer needed a hand from the Trust after 1970. We decided to announce the availability of the Scholarship immediately, in time for applications from the class of 1970. I’m inclined to attribute the instant and continuing success of the Sachs Scholarship to our total inexperience. None of us had ever done anything of the sort, or ever worked with each other.

Somehow, too, there was nothing sad about it. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It was Bob Orrill’s idea, a year or two later, that in time we should involve former scholars in the selection, and eventually give way to them. I will have them know that in that first year we interviewed everyone who applied, giving them an hour each, seventeen people in all, sitting in the freezing conference room at 70 Washington Road from the Friday evening through Sunday afternoon. There’s no need to insist on the wisdom we somehow found within ourselves. I’ll just recall that Dennis’s application consisted of half a page, written longhand.

The rest is history, so to say, the history of the scholars themselves. Oh, there are other important features to mention. If I recall correctly, Jack, Matthew, Bob, Bill, and I constituted the selection committee down through David’s year. The first scholars to serve were Dennis and Mike in 1977. Further to be remembered is our distress over losing Jack in 1981, also to cancer, incredibly enough. He was at the midpoint of a term as alumni trustee of the University. Jack Horton was the most amusing man I’ve ever known, and a fine friend. Finally, I’d like to emphasize the importance of the increasing participation of the Class of 1960. From the outset we had their complete moral support, and very many classmates contributed to the initial fund. They were not then near the top of their earning powers, however, and it is since their 25th anniversary, on which they made an important capital gift, that their annual material as well as moral support has come, along with that from scholars and other friends, to be a major element in the continuing viability of the Scholarship, now officially called the Daniel M. Sachs Class of 1960 Graduating Scholarship.