The President's Message Spring 2017
Dick Magat, whose life and work we celebrate in this special edition, has left us with the extraordinary gift of connecting. Along with Ed Meade, Dick founded the LAFF Society, whose 25th anniversary we had the pleasure of celebrating with him last May. Those of you who were able to join us will remember Dick’s fascinating recollection of LAFF’s beginnings, obstacles and successes, and the warmth and appreciation with which he was received by the members, his colleagues, in attendance.
For Dick, according to his daughter, Claudia Keenan, the LAFF anniversary and his ability to participate was “a real highlight” of his well-lived 90 years. I will not try to encapsulate those years and the remarkable contributions Dick made as a writer, philanthropist and rights activist. The contributions of others here tell that story far better than I can, as do those who remember Dick for his wry wit and unyielding determination, summed up so well in the LAFF Society designation: Life After the Ford Foundation.
Dick had a simple goal in co-founding LAFF, a desire to stay connected to the colleagues with whom he shared 25 remarkable years and times, at an institution he loved and served with incredible distinction. When I became LAFF’s president seven years ago, Ed sent me a quote from the first issue of the newsletter, I imagine written by Dick, that was clear about their intent:
“We hope that by circulating news of the professional and/or personal events in the lives of FF alumni, we will remember old bonds, possibly renew acquaintances, perhaps even help one another professionally, and satisfy sheer curiosity. This enterprise is topped with a dollop of nostalgia, for which we make no apology.”
When I inherited the mantle of LAFF’s president, I immediately faced a certain pressure to change the Society’s name, which some viewed as “undignified”. I received a call from Dick reminding me of the name’s layers of meaning, including its humorous connotation. I told him I agreed with the membership’s established consensus that the name should not be changed, but Dick pressed the case nonetheless.
Based on his always informative protestations, our next generation of colleagues sought a tag line that would capture and perpetuate our founding fathers’ original intent: “Promoting social and professional contacts among former staff members of the Ford Foundation”. And we topped it with a seal, designed by Nellie Toma’s daughter, Laura, that depicts a global foundation surrounded by its former employees.
It’s as simple and complex as that. And at each meeting where I can remember old bonds with my colleagues, with each Newsletter and visit to the website where I can satisfy sheer curiosity, with each sad passing topped with a dollop of nostalgia, I will remember with gratitude the gift that Dick has bequeathed us. He keeps us connected.