On The Avenue

Reading Between the NYPL’s Lions

by Michael Gross Photographed by Alice Proujanksy/New York Public Library
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The President’s Council, the New York Public Library’s most generous donor group (a minimum donation of $25,000 gets you in), held its annual fall dinner on Monday night, where Library president Anthony W. Marx revealed that the elite entity has, since its inception, raised “well over $50 million” for the library system. In their remarks, Marx and Council co-chair Gayfryd Steinberg, said monies raised in the last year, described as the “best year of private fundraising” in the Library’s history, will fund forthcoming renovations of the library’s landmark main building, its extensive network of branches, and an epochal upcoming combination of the NYPL archives with those of Columbia, Princeton and, most recently, Harvard Universities.

After a cocktail hour in the grand Astor Hall, guests strolled downstairs to the Celeste Auditorium, where Rick Stengel, a former editor of Time Magazine and under secretary of state for Barack Obama, conducted an intriguing interview with award-winning author Ron Chernow about his forthcoming Grant, a magisterial biography of Civil War general and Reconstruction-era president Ulysses S. Grant. It was quickly noted that while most Americans have visited the Lincoln Memorial, few besides Chernow have ever been to Grant’s Tomb in uptown Manhattan.

Guests including Stephen A. Schwarzman, whose name graces the building where the event was held, along with wife Christine, Steinberg and her husband, writer Michael Schnayerson, Shirley Lord Rosenthal and Mitchell Rosenthal (no relation), the library’s chief digital officer Tony Ageh and wife Elaine Finkeltaub, Young Lion Morwin Schmookler and his wife Chelsea Volpe, President’s Council co-chairs Louise Grunwald and Beth and Chris Kojima, library trustees Barbara G. Fleischman and Luis A. Ubiñas (with wife Deborah), then headed back upstairs for an intimate seated dinner after another of their number, the reporter-turned-financier Steve Rattner, announced to no one in particular, “End of commercial.”

In fact, there was one more commercial, or rather, a commercial gift-with-donation, in store. On leaving the library, every guest received a signed copy of Chernow’s 1,000-plus page book (which will be published on October 10th) to carry home, presumably helping them work off the luscious crème caramel that concluded the meal.


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