When philanthropist extraordinaire Lawrence Benenson — an honoree at Purchase College State University of New York Nelson A. Rockefeller Award for Creativity Dinner-at the New York Historical Society — was invited to the dais he alluded to “Comedian Red Buttons, who used to talk about the people who never got a dinner. When the nice people at Purchase College told me I was receiving this award, I told them they were being creative. Why creative? [Because] Nelson Rockefeller agreed with me that higher taxes on rich people are much more preferable than cutting programs for working families… You do know that Mr. Rockefeller created 55 State Parks in New York,” said Benenson who urged: “If you want to help the environment–turn off the water while you brush your teeth. I hope to become creative in making the world a better place…and I want Purchase College to keep making arts dynamic.”
Benenson, Chairman of the Board of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy, comes from a family with a portfolio encompassing more than 150 properties across North America and Europe, whose credo is “our handshake is our bond” and has long supported, among others, Lincoln Center, the Inner City Scholarship Fund and U JA-Federation.
I first met Lawrence Benenson in October 2006 at the 100 th anniversary of Benenson Capital Partners which showcased an exhibit of 40 paintings and sculptures from the Charles Benenson personal collection of modern and contemporary art — works by Calder, Dubuffet, Klee, Kandinsky, Leger, Matisse, Miro, Picasso and Rodin–earmarked for Yale university. That night, N. Y. State Senator Charles Schumer told the guests: “When in the mid 1970’s New York City was ailing, Charlie [Lawrence’s dad] helped found the Association for a Better New York … Without the Benensons we would be a lesser city.”
Addressing the 175 guests and Purchase College alumni, Thomas J. Schwarz President, of Purchase College, State University of New York, lauded the college’s uniqueness and touted the institution as the “nation’s pre-eminent arts and liberal arts institution… We are in fact unique… unlike any other institute that combines liberal arts and all arts visual and performing.” He thanked former NYC Mayor David Dinkins — a dinner guest — “for his past service” and lauded former Rockefeller awardees and alumni.
The evening also honored Jacques D’Amboise one of the finest classical dancers and choreographers of our time, a former principal of the New York City Ballet who founded the world-renowned National Dance Institute in 1976 that invited millions of young people — regardless of economic status or physical ability — to “Come Dance With Me;” conceptual artist Fred Wilson and, in absentia, stage, screen 2014 Tony Award-winning artist singer/actress Audra McDonald.
Among the guests: Barbaralee Diamondstein-Spielvogel — writer, activist, involved in, among others, the fields of art, design, public policy and named by President Obama as a Commissioner of the American Battle Monuments Commission, her husband Carl Spielvogel a former U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic and Louise Kerz Hirschfeld whose late husband Al Hirschfeld was the legendary caricaturist and illustrator.