Profiles in Giving: (Your Name on) The Best Seat in the House


Bonita Eaton Enochs, Editor

Whether as a nod to immortality or a dedication to family, P&S alumni have started making commitments to name chairs in the auditorium of the new Medical and Graduate Education Building.

P&S has started a campaign urging alumni to name auditorium chairs with a $15,000 gift payable over a three-year period. “The best seat in the house is the one with your name on it,” reads a postcard sent to all P&S alumni in early December 2013.

Construction began in fall 2013 on the 14-story glass tower at 171st Street and Haven Avenue, just a short walk from Bard Hall, where most P&S students live when they begin medical school. The building is expected to open in 2016. The auditorium has 256 chairs that can be named. A metal plate on the back of each chair will note the donor’s name, the name of someone to whom the chair is dedicated, or any 35 characters of the donor’s choosing. “Naming a chair in the auditorium is a unique and fitting way to leave your legacy at P&S and to honor or memorialize a loved one,” says Laura Tenenbaum, senior director of development at Columbia University Medical Center.

Alumni who have already made commitments have indicated that they will have their own names on seats or will honor parents or offspring. “We encourage alumni to also consider honoring their favorite teacher with a seat in a place where great teaching will continue in the P&S tradition,” says Ms. Tenenbaum. “People who graduated in the 1940s and 50s revere Robert Loeb. More recent graduates invoke the names of Steve Miller and Jay Lefkowitch when remembering great teaching. Also, classes can combine resources to buy a seat or a section of seats dedicated to a favorite teacher or mentor. The possibilities for creating a legacy through the auditorium chairs are as numerous as alumni imaginations can conjure.”

Herb Peyser’48, a psychiatrist in New York, comes from a long line of P&S graduates, and he considers his commitment “just a mild search for a little, teensy bit of immortality, so when I pass through that door that shuts, there will be written on it for others to see, ‘I was here.’”

“‘Here’ refers to the time and place and to P&S,” says Dr. Peyser. His uncle, George Baehr, was a 1908 P&S graduate who helped organize the medical profession and U.S.-based hospital care during World War II after being named by President Roosevelt as chief medical officer of the Office of Civil Defense. Dr. Peyser’s daughter, Karen, graduated from P&S in 1979 and is a pediatric cardiologist.

Three members of the family of Doris Pennoyer’54 and Douglass Pennoyer’54, who died within months of each other after celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in 2011, are paying tribute to the memory of their parents, classmates who married during medical school. The seat is funded by Marguerite “Peggy” Pennoyer’82, an allergist-immunologist in Maine; her husband, Donald P. Endrizzi’82, a Maine orthopedic surgeon; and her brother, William Pennoyer’92, a surgeon in Connecticut.

“Thinking about all of the hours my parents spent huddled over the cramped seats in the P&S auditorium together—Mom writing perfect notes that were works of art and my father’s more general surgical type notes—I can’t think of a better way to honor them,” says Peggy Pennoyer. “We have photographic proof of my father, asleep with his feet draped over one of the chairs during a pathology slide conference right after lunch while my mom continued to take notes.

“I think about the students that will follow in their footsteps and look at the plaque on the seat in front of them in the new auditorium,” she adds. “So much time is spent in the auditorium as a medical student, not all of it perfectly focused on the lecture. Perhaps these new students will wonder about these two names in front of them. They have left such a legacy in medicine in our community here in Maine. It is wonderful to be able to leave such a personalized legacy at P&S.” The P&S-related Pennoyer family also includes Peggy and Don’s daughter, Julie Endrizzi’13, an emergency medicine resident at the University of Rochester.

Ellen Gendler’81, a New York dermatologist, has purchased a seat to honor her son, Jonathan R. Salik’15. “I was so honored that Jonathan chose my alma mater as the place to get his medical career started,” says Dr. Gendler. “I hope that every student who sits in ‘our seat’ starts the same tradition in his or her own family. Dedicating a chair in my son’s name is my way of acknowledging the swell of pride I feel when I think of the hard work he puts into everything he does and the fine young doctor he is becoming.”

Robin Steinberg’80, an ophthalmologist in Massachusetts, is dedicating a chair in memory of her father, Dr. Milton Stanley Steinberg, a cardiologist. “He imparted much sage advice and many clinical pearls to me and inspired my interest in medicine as a career. He was a devoted and loving father who encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I can think of no more fitting way to honor my father’s legacy than by commemorating a memorial chair to him. The excellent medical education I received and the wonderful instructors I was exposed to during medical school at P&S served as a rich foundation that propelled me into my rewarding medical career.

“Now, when I return to P&S for alumni reunions or lectures,” adds Dr. Steinberg, “I will feel as though my father is there with me sitting at the head of the class.”

More information about funding auditorium chairs is available from Laura Tenenbaum at 212-342-2108 or