Reagan Becomes Alumnus of Yeshiva U.
Menu JTA Search

Reagan Becomes Alumnus of Yeshiva U.

Download PDF for this date

President Reagan is now an honorary alumnus of Yeshiva University. He was inducted into the university’s ranks during a special White House ceremony last Thursday honoring the institution’s centennial. Dr. Norman Lamm, president of the university, presented Reagan with a Doctor of Laws degree.

The private reception in the Cabinet Room marked the first time that a Yeshiva University delegation had been invited to the White House. The event also marked the first time the university had conferred an honorary degree upon an incumbent President, although John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon received honorary degrees from the institution before they were elected to the presidency.

After receiving the honorary degree, Reagan saluted the university, America’s oldest and largest under Jewish auspices, and said, “Its history, representing as it does both freedom of secular inquiry and freedom of religion, is the story of America.”


Lamm, who is completing his first decade as president of the university, read a special citation and conferred the degree upon Reagan. The citation read, in part:

“As President, you have placed the stamp of your unique personality on a new era in our great country. As a unique American institution, Yeshiva University is proud to celebrate its 100th birthday in that era. Yeshiva University draws confidence from the confidence of the Reagan era — and we are confident that this larger confidence will neither fail nor falter.

“A Jewish sage once said, ‘When a man is able to take abuse and not respond in kind, he is worthy to become a leader upon whom the sun will shine.’ Even during crises and criticism, you have never wavered from basic human decency, you have never lost your sunny sense of humor, and we know you will never permit a passing cloud to dim the luster of your leadership.”

In addition to the citation, Lamm also presented Reagan with a sterling silver menorah in honor of the Chanukah holiday season. He also gave a facsimile of a letter written in 1818 by Thomas Jefferson in which the former President of the United States decried anti-Semitism and religious intolerance.

Leading the university delegation were three officers of the institution’s Board of Trustees: Herbert Tenzer, chairman of the Board; Stanley Stern, vice chairman; and Max Etra, chairman emeritus. Dr. Israel Miller, senior vice president, chaired the ceremonies.

Two Yeshiva University alumni serve as major government officials — Max Kampelman, chief U.S. negotiator at the Geneva arms control talks, and Judge Abraham Sofaer, U.S. State Department Legal Advisor.


In September, in a letter to the university, Reagan declared that Yeshiva University “has maintained a tradition of excellence and creativity.” The president concluded by stating: “Nancy joins me in wishing you Mazel Tov and another 100 years of success.”

The ceremony at the White House was another in a series of special events commemorating the centennial of the university, which has grown from a tiny yeshiva into what is today an international, multi-faceted university.

Last September, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Dr. Bernard Revel, the university’s first president. At the university’s centennial convocation, Secretary of Education William Bennett extolled the university as a model for other educational institutions. To date, 18 states have issued official proclamations in honor of the centennial.

Yeshiva University comprises 15 schools, divisions, and affiliates. There are five undergraduate schools, seven graduate and professional schools, and three affiliates with campuses in New York, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem. Total enrollment is some 7,000 men and women. The full-time faculty numbers nearly 1,400.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund