Saperstein, Michael, Fordham Journal of Corporate & Financial Law
RECIPIENT OF THE RICHARD J. BENNETT MEMORIAL AWARD[dagger] OCTOBER 14, 2004
MR. SAPERSTEIN: Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you, Dean Treanor,1 your words were most gracious and very much appreciated.
I want to introduce the people who are precious to me. My family: my daughter Kim, my son-in-law Jason, my grandsons Aaron and Beno, and my 14-month old granddaughter, Alexandra, who is at home asleep. Being close to my family emotionally and geographically is my greatest good fortune.
It is an honor to receive the Richard J. Bennett Memorial Award. This evening, I was asked to describe why I chose to study law and then pursue a career in investments. I was also asked to discuss the importance of ethical behavior. I will begin by sharing with you my path from college, to law, to banking. I will also comment on certain activity by the legal community.
I was born in 1941 and lived for thirteen years on Grand Street, known as the Lower East Side.2 At that time the neighborhood was not the trendy spot that it has become. My mother and father were first generation Americans and they were not able to attend college. My father owned a store on Hester Street which stocked canned goods, smoked fish and other delicacies. Dad had the place open seven days per week. At 5:00 A.M. each day, he went to the market and, each day, arrived home fifteen hours later. I cannot remember a holiday, other than certain Jewish holidays, that my dad did not spend working. Though they lacked a formal education, both of my parents were highly intelligent. They also exhibited an incredible work ethic and superb values. My parents assured me that with a good education, I could have an easier life. But, of greatest importance were the values they espoused.
Those values were the three C's - Courage, Character and Commitment. I was told never to quit, never to fear failure, and never to get intoxicated by success. 1 was encouraged to identify my goals and pursue them with passion. I was cautioned that success could only be sustained if accompanied by honesty. To lie, to cheat or to be dishonest was to be a coward. I was lucky to be exposed to this wisdom at an early age.
As I grew up attending public school, my passions were baseball and the financial section of The World - Telegram and Sun.3 In 1958,1 was accepted to Colgate University. While at Colgate, I realized that because of my exposure to Dad's business, I was driven to pursue a business career. But, I knew I wanted to attend graduate school and I had to decide between law school and business school. I concluded that a legal education provided greater career opportunities. Lawyers are represented as leaders in every field: business, major league managers, police officers, and politicians. Some lawyers even practice law. After graduating Colgate in 1962, I was fortunate to be accepted by Fordham Law. My education in the law trained me to think logically and practically. Case studies conditioned me to anticipate an opposing opinion. After graduating Fordham Law in 1965,1 spent a brief period at the Office of the Corporation Counsel in New York City.4
On a slightly rainy evening in April of 1966, I decided to go to Yankee Stadium and my life changed dramatically. The Yankees were playing the Washington Senators and there were very few fans in attendance. It was at this game that I met Richard M. Nixon. At the time, Mr. Nixon was a private citizen practicing law as a partner at Mudge Rose.5 He had lost to Kennedy in 1960, and then lost the race for governor of California in 1962. Still, when I met Mr. Nixon at that game I was convinced he would again seek the Presidency. I asked to be a volunteer in what I anticipated would be his campaign. Being a Fordham Law graduate caught his attention. In a typical Nixon response he told me that a lot of great people came out of that school and that his closest buddy, his partner John Mitchell, was a Fordham Law graduate. …