When I left Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and entered Harvard as a homesick 17 year old freshman, my roommate and classmate, Clifton Wharton, made me feel welcome during those early days in Cambridge. In fact, since he lived in Boston, he and his mother quickly helped me to feel like another member of their family—my home away from home. After our undergraduate years, we chose separate paths. Mine took me to medical school, surgical internship and residency, to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in rural Haiti for almost 12 years, then back to Boston. Clif's took him to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University for his Master's degree, then to the University of Chicago for another Master's degree and a doctorate in economics. He then focused on Third World development issues with the American International Association for Economic and Social Development, working his way up through that organization over five years, most of his work centering on Latin America. After he had represented the Agricultural Development Council in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries for five years, he became vice president of the organization in its New York office.
One Sunday in 1969, while I was talking to a friend who had just come from the States to the Schweitzer Hospital in rural Haiti, he asked if I would like his copy of the New York Times. To my utter surprise, when I glanced at the first page, I saw a picture of Clif, with the headlined article that he had just been named President of Michigan State University. Those were the days when American college campuses were in the midst of nationwide anti-Vietnam War protests—a tough time to be a University President. Dr. Wharton served with such distinction for eight years, that after he left in 1978, he was honored by the school, which named a new building on campus—the Clifton and Dolores Wharton Center for Performing Arts—for him and his wife (who had been my date at the Harvard Yale game). Can you imagine my immense pleasure in the early 1990s as I watched the first Clinton - Bush Presidential debate that was held in that building!
Dr. Wharton became Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY) System in 1978, a huge undertaking, since SUNY at the time had a $2.5 billion budget, hundreds of thousands of students, 64 campuses, and roughly 70,000 employees. During his years at SUNY, a national survey of college leaders named him one of the top five most influential leaders in higher education.
In 1987, Clif became the Chairman and CEO of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association and the College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF). By the early 1990s, TIAA-CREF had 1.6 million participants from colleges, universities, independent schools, and nonprofit organizations. TIAA is the nation's third biggest life insurer; CREF owns about one percent of all U.S. corporate stock. By the time he left his post as chairman and CEO of the pension fund to be Deputy Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, he had overseen the doubling of TIAA-CREF's assets to $113 billion. He has received no less than 48 honorary doctorate degrees.
Throughout these years, I have continued to feel part of Clif's family, just as in those college years, and he has often sent copies of his speeches to me. After all these years, it has been thrilling to see how closely aligned our world view is, but this should not be a surprise. Although our paths have been very different, both of us have continually been concerned about development (on many levels), and the common good. When I read the Keynote Address that he had given at a Michigan State University symposium last year, "Responsibility in a Common World: My Brother's Keeper?", I could only say, Amen! I knew that it was also FAMILY's keynote. I have never heard of a keynote address being used for the launching of a website before, but I'm grateful to Clif for allowing us to use his as our Keynote also, as we launch FAMILY's website. I also want to thank Michigan State University and Kappa Omicron Nu for their permission to publish his address.