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Tribute to Trustee Richard E. Voigt

Richard E. Voigt Memorial
July 13, 2018 
​Remarks by President Emeritus Cliff L. Wood

I love/loved Dick Voigt and was honored when his beloved Elisabeth asked me to speak this morning.  Elisabeth, you know you were the love of his life and that he adored you, “his great beauty.”  That’s a sentiment shared by many of us—you are beautiful in every way.    I remember Dick telling me when he knew he loved you.  He had returned to Germany to visit you in your hometown and you were together at a bar.  He looked over and there you were, elegant and sophisticated, leaning against a grand piano, another love of his.

I first met Dick in 2005 shortly after I came to RCC and when Dick was appointed Trustee, a position he held at the time of his passing.  A few days after Dick’s appointment, he called and invited me to lunch before I had a chance to call him.  I was impressed by his warmth and generosity of spirit, and my feelings have never changed.  Dick told me that as a Trustee, his job was to support the college and the president, and, again, that has never changed.  I knew Dick was in my corner and, despite his blueblood education, he was also in the corner of public education, which he knew must be affordable and accessible to all Americans, old or new, regardless of color, creed or personal orientation.  Dick was a true humanitarian who tried to help anyone, regardless of circumstance.  He lived the adage “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

At the end of our lunch, in the classic college Greek, I pinned Dick with a gold RCC lapel pin, which he wore faithfully.  And I suspect if you go to his closet now, that pin is on his preppy blue blazer.  I also learned at that lunch that we were both presidents of our respective college fraternities, and we both maintained the close friendships with those brothers.  In fact, for these 60 years or more, Dick has met annually with these brothers, and, sadly, this year there will be one less chair at the table down at Mory’s and another Whiffenpoof has said bye bye.

Those who knew Dick knew of his and Elisabeth’s incredible generosity and their support of programs and services that helped those with the greatest need. Dick brought that same commitment as a member of the RCC Board and as a dedicated Board Chair from 2010 until 2012.  As a college president, I valued his presence and advice when major issues faced the college.  This was particularly helpful when we worked with the County Executive and/or the Legislators.  Many today could learn from Dick about putting the common good first through collaboration, compromise, and good will.    I once asked Dick to go with me to see the legendary Herb Kurz to ask for Herb’s endowment of RCC’s Student Support Fund, and true to Dick’s spirit, he said “We need to take Herb a pastrami sandwich with mustard.  That’s his favorite.”  I mention this because it is an example of Dick’s humanity, attention to detail, (and his smarts).   He paid attention to people and was comfortable in every arena – whether it be Nantucket, Carnegie Hall, or an AA meeting in Newark.  

Dick was one of those giants – a man of the people.  Wrapped in his Kent School, Yale, New York Theological, and yes, RCC mantel, his was a life of love, friendship and service to humanity.  We will always remember the magic of Dick’s music and the words of Yale’s classic Whiffenpoof Song:  “We will serenade our (Richard) while life and voice shall last.”  

And this preppy ivy leaguer, all-around good guy, and, yes, we did step outside occasionally for an “I’m gonna quit moment” – he was my friend whom I will greatly miss. 


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