A Father’s Day salute to Paul Soros: a remarkable man, brilliant and kind and compassionate.

Paul SorosHere’s the NYT obituary with the sad news that Paul died yesterday, and some details about his distinguished career.  On top of his engineering genius, which transformed ports and shipping all over the world, he was an Olympic skier and tennis player?  And a Hungarian refugee from the Nazis?  Passport forger and entrepreneur?  Hard to imagine all of that in one incredibly nice person.

I met him when he and Daisy received honorary degrees at Macaulay Honors College.  A few years ago I became a director of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, a remarkable program that supports graduate education for some of this country’s most talented immigrants.  I cherish the time I got to spend with Paul.

Just last week, my fellow board member Peter Georgescu profiled the Soros’ in An Immigrant’s Tale and wrote eloquently about their prolific philanthropy and about immigration as a core democratic value and source of American strength.  “[the Soros fellows] are the people who continue to epitomize the classic American dream. They and millions of immigrant Americans like them are a reason one can look at America with hope and optimism.”

The Soros’ have long been great supporters of the arts in New York, especially the Metropolitan Opera and Philharmonic, and they were the principal sponsors of an annual “Summer Swing” at the Lincoln Center plaza.  Here’s a story that brings it all together — Soros and music and Macaulay — and illustrates how young people get connected to the arts.  After attending an opera for the first time, a group of Macaulay students decided to join the Summer Swing dance sessions because, one of them said, “Lincoln Center and its plaza had become part of their home.” The Macaulay students now claimed our vision and made it their very own —  New York City had really become their campus.