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Remarks by Yale Asbell, Esq. '78
January 30, 2004

The Sophia Ava Asbell Chair in Judaic Studies had its first professor installed in a ceremony held in Mathers Theatre in the Holland Union Building. Andrea B. Lieber, assistant professor of religion and coordinator of Judaic studies, is the first incumbent of this chair.

The chair was established through the generosity of Yale Asbell '78 and Mrs. Audrey Asbell and is named for their older daughter. The Asbell family has had ties to Dickinson for over 75 years with 13 members of the family having attended the college. The family has made numerous gifts to the college, including the Sarah and Isedor Asbell First Generation Scholarship. Yale Asbell currently serves on Dickinson's Board of Trustees.

Photo by A. Pierce Bounds, Dickinson College
Yale Asbell

With the indulgence of the audience, I would like to take this opportunity to speak with my daughter Sophia and explain to her why her mother and I wanted to place her name on the Judaic Studies chair at Dickinson College.

Sophie, nothing of value that we achieve in this life is done alone. Mommy and I have each other, our families and our friends all of whom have taught us valuable life lessons. I would not have achieved the level of success in my life; I would not be the person that I am, had it not been for the professors who were my guides here at Dickinson College. We are honored by the presence of Ralph Slotten, Dan Bechtel, Michael Kline and Ken Rosen here today. Sophie, you may accomplish great things-this is our dream as parents-but you will not be able to do this in a vacuum. We proudly make scholarship donations honoring these professors. Always honor your teachers and appreciate them.

We appreciate and thank President Durden who gave priority to a chair in Judaic Studies and asked your mother and me to take on the task of funding it and Provost Weissman for his vision of Judaic Studies within a global liberal arts curriculum. As much as we congratulate Professor Lieber on her instillation today, we also express appreciation to her for her efforts to enliven the Judaic Studies program at the College and her key role in moving it forward. We also express our appreciation to the Curleys, Staffords, Wynne Amick and the Stuart family and others who endowed chairs before us and serve as model leaders of the College. Congratulations to all of you who have made this event a reality.

Now Sophie lets talk about philanthropy and the reason why we wanted your name associated with this day. In your lifetime you will have to define yourself; discover the way in which you want other people to think of you and find out for yourself what really matters to you.

As your parents, we have many responsibilities. Among these is to teach you the meaning of the word charity. If you know the meaning of this word, then you will fully understand why your parents are here today.

The Hebrew word for charity, tzedukah, has a meaning greater than just charity alone. That Hebrew word means justice or doing the right thing. The word meaning instructs us that by being philanthropic, we create a just society and we are doing the right thing for others and ourselves. Judaic studies teaches that acts of tzedukah are necessary conditions for effecting the repair of a broken world, and a compelling obligation upon all who would participate in its transformation.

Sophie, I want you to see the great joy within me today. What we are doing here today is transformational. The resources of Dickinson College are being enhanced, the academic program strengthened and Professor Lieber is being duly honored. But that is not the transformation that your father is focusing upon. What matters most to us is that what we do here today and what we'll continue to do for Dickinson is transforming our family. We are better people because what we now celebrate is doing the right thing.

And it is a very personal thing. You know Amity Fox. She has been a guest in our home. Getting to know Amity has changed our lives and the scholarship she has received from family scholarships at Dickinson has changed her life. We celebrate her approaching graduation by dedicating our sponsorship of this year's scholarship luncheon in honor of her graduation. Thank you Amity for making a difference in our lives.

Pablo Thaler: You know Pablo, Sophie. He too has been a guest in our home on several occasions. In short order, Pablo has gone from an applicant to Dickinson, to an outstanding member of the freshman class, to being thought of by us as a member of the family. We love Pablo and we are proud that he is at Dickinson. We do the right thing now by announcing a donation to the college in honor of his next three years at Dickinson.

There is another student coming to Dickinson in the fall. She is from a small country, Uruguay, and her family has faced great, sudden economic hardship. She is brilliant and engaging and she is hungry for a future. About her, my classmate Tom Fiest said: "One can sense the palpable sincerity of the gratitude and appreciation in her words. She will be a great asset to the College and to her world community."

These are the students for which we are searching. An Ivy League university offered her admission but could not make it happen. Dickinson will make it happen. We will be offering her admission and her dreams will become reality. Our family is now doing the right thing by making a donation to the College large enough to allow Dickinson to fully aid students like her.

I have said that Tzedukah is about doing justice. When we stand up for what we believe in, we bring honor to our people and to ourselves. When we stand up others will join us and several in this room today have already done so. As more join us, there is no end to what we can accomplish.

When you give appreciation, you receive appreciation in return. When you make a donation you receive something special in return. When you do what is right it has an effect on you. I want to thank all of you for allowing, encouraging and helping Audrey and me to teach our daughters about what is really important. Dickinson College and all of you have made our lives more meaningful. Thank you.