Celebrate Einstein

Einstein Lifetime Leadership Awards Recognize the Contributions of Linda Altman & Arnold Penner

On Wednesday, November 16, 2011, two remarkable individuals — Linda Altman and Arnold S. Penner — received the first-ever Einstein Lifetime Leadership Awards, in recognition of their extraordinary contributions supporting the mission of the College of Medicine. The awards were presented to Mrs. Altman and Mr. Penner at the “Celebrate Einstein” dinner held at the Plaza Hotel.

(From left): Kathy Weinberg, national president, Women’s Division; Earle Altman; Linda Altman, honoree; Dr. Allen M. Spiegel; Arnold Penner, honoree; Madaleine Berley and Raymond Cohen, chair, Men’s Division
“The College of Medicine is honored and privileged to recognize Linda Altman and Arnold Penner for their outstanding service,” noted Dr. Ruth L. Gottesman, chair of Einstein’s Board of Overseers. "Their ongoing dedication and support has helped the medical school grow and flourish over the years."

Linda Altman has been a part of the Einstein National Women’s Division for nearly 30 years, thanks to an introduction to the group by a friend who brought her to a meeting. “It truly inspired me,” she recalled. “So I just kept going to meetings.”

The ‘going to meetings’ quickly evolved into a passionate involvement with Einstein. She became president of the Westchester/Fairfield Chapter of the National Women’s Division, and then moved on to become national president. In 2006, she was elected to the Einstein Board of Overseers and now serves on its executive committee and chairs the communications committee. Additionally, in 2005, she received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Yeshiva University, in recognition of her philanthropic leadership and service to Einstein.

“My passion for Einstein is sparked by its warmth, by its collaboration and by its devotion to research that translates into patient care,” said Mrs. Altman. “There is an atmosphere of caring and excitement at Einstein as its scientists seek new treatments to fight or prevent disease. And there’s the hope that maybe a finding will lead to a new cure.”

It is that search for a cure that truly motivates her. Having lost friends to both lung cancer and pancreatic cancer, she hopes that the work Einstein researchers are doing today will change the future for others. “We must help our doctors and scientists in their efforts to eradicate devastating disease,” she said.

In support of that quest, Linda and her husband, Earle (who is chairman of ABS Partners Real Estate LLC and a respected 50-year veteran of the commercial real estate industry), established the Linda and Earle Altman Faculty Scholar in Cancer Research and also made a major gift to support the work of Dr. Steven Libutti, an internationally recognized leader in cancer research and oncological surgery, and his efforts to develop innovative cancer therapies that could transform cancer care.

Mrs. Altman also is a major force behind a new heart disease initiative at Einstein that will bring together pre-eminent experts in the field to increase understanding of the disease. “We need to be aware of effective preventative care and up-to-date treatments, so we’ll have the knowledge to pick and choose the best options for ourselves and those we love,” said Mrs. Altman.

Bruce Beck, Celebrate Einstein emcee
Her philanthropy is driven by a belief in giving back. “We have to do it,” she said. “It all comes back to us.”

Her vision for that future includes a major role for Einstein. “I see Einstein at the forefront. I see Einstein as a world-class institution that has made its indelible mark on future generations,” she said. “Einstein is growing steadily and is ever moving forward. Though we’re a young institution, we’ve come so very far. I see Einstein as the leader in the world of medicine.”

Mrs. Altman is doing everything she can to make that vision come true. “Einstein inspires me to do more,” she said, “to be a force to engage as many people as I can to believe in the excellence and vital importance of the research at Einstein.”

The Einstein Lifetime Leadership Award recognizes Ms. Altman’s passionate commitment. “Receiving the Lifetime Leadership Award overwhelms me,” she said. “I am so deeply honored. To receive an award for something one loves is doubly satisfying. I thank all who do their part through their selfless efforts to make this a better world.”

One such individual seeking to make the world a better place is Mrs. Altman’s co-honoree, Arnold Penner. A Bronx native who made good in real estate and restaurants, Mr. Penner wasn’t so sure about Einstein the first time he visited. “I initially thought it was all rich men’s children,” recalled the son of a welder and a milliner. “But I came back a second time, and left feeling completely different. Einstein became a very important part of my life.”

Mr. Penner’s commitment to Einstein now spans more than three decades. He is a longtime executive board member of the Men’s Division and was elected to the Einstein Board of Overseers in 1998. He received the Albert Einstein Humanitarian Award in 1992 and an honorary doctorate of humane letters fromYeshiva Universityin 2006 in recognition of his distinguished service to the College of Medicine.

“When I came to Einstein I saw it was a wonderful teaching establishment, which I admire,” said Mr. Penner. “Einstein has a wonderful attitude toward its students; it is dedicated to making good doctors. They come in as kids and leave as doctors. And, they are doctors with a unique purpose and mission.”

Mr. Penner has seen that transition first-hand. “I have a brother-in-law who went to Einstein,” he noted. “Every year, he and his wife, who is a nurse, go to Colombia on their own dime, where they treat people who have no medical care at all. That’s the kind of doctor our program produces.”

It is a program Mr. Penner and his wife, Madaleine Berley, are dedicated to supporting. They also have put their efforts behind the work of Einstein’s Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC), which serves 7,800 adults and children with physical, developmental, language and learning disabilities each year.

He does it for the satisfaction he gets from helping. “If you are not philanthropic, you are not fulfilled,” he said. “We should all die broke.”

Neil Sedaka entertained the evening's guests
It is a philosophy that drives his life. “When people ask what’s my job, I say ‘I write checks all day’,’” said Mr. Penner, who is a partner in real estate holdings across the U.S. and a partner in P.J. Clarke’s restaurants. “If a person is lucky enough to succeed in life and to have more money than he needs, what should he do with it? Should he keep it? Should he put it away in a bank? Or should he give it away to society and help society? If we, as individuals, don’t help society, society cannot survive. We have to look at ourselves. If we are privileged enough to have more money than we need, we should be out there taking care.”

And take care he does. In addition to Einstein, Mr. Penner is a major supporter of the National Dance Institute and the Israel Bonds’ Real Estate Division. “The money doesn’t belong to us,” he said. “We should all try and reflect on that. When you give, the rewards are fabulous.”

Those rewards include helping to propel Einstein into the future. “I hope we keep doing what we are doing,” Mr. Penner said. “We have the best scientists in the world, working to identify targets for treatments to combat and possibly eliminate many of the diseases that contribute to human suffering.”

The recognition in receiving the Einstein Lifetime Leadership Award is icing on the cake. “I am very moved to get the award,” Mr. Penner said. “And, honored. And, humbled.”

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Posted on: Thursday, November 17, 2011