University presidents, governor celebrate a statesman

Photo by Steve Castillo
Photo by Steve Castillo

Former Secretary of State GEORGE P. SHULTZ was feted Thursday in honor of his 90th birthday by GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, the presidents of Princeton, MIT, Chicago and Stanford, and about 400 well-wishers and colleagues at a higher education innovation summit and elegant campus dinner celebration.

Hailing Shultz as a “global leader” and treasured mentor, Schwarzenegger spoke for more than 45 minutes about the advice he has received during his tenure as governor from the elder statesman. He recounted how the two became fast friends in the course of a single minute, when Shultz agreed to endorse Schwarzenegger’s candidacy for California governor in 2002.

“George has been at my side since then,” Schwarzenegger said, noting that in his first month in office “George told me to compromise enough to get a deal done. He said I had to prove, to show right away off the top, that I can bring Democrats and Republicans together on an issue. George’s recommendation and his advice was always about coalition building.”

Before raising a champagne toast to the man he called “my friend, my partner, my idol,” Schwarzenegger teased Shultz with his own movie line: “George is 90 years old and doesn’t stop. After every big move, he says, ‘I’ll be back … ‘”

The celebration was preceded by a panel conversation by the presidents of the four universities that Shultz has been affiliated with as either a student or faculty member: SHIRLEY TILGHMAN, president of Princeton, where Shultz earned his undergraduate degree; SUSAN HOCKFIELD, president of MIT, where he earned his doctorate and also served on the faculty; ROBERT ZIMMER, president of the University of Chicago, where he served as a professor and a dean; and JOHN HENNESSY, president of Stanford, where Shultz is the Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution. The panel’s moderator was Stanford President Emeritus GERHARD CASPER, who also was at Chicago with Shultz.

The discussion was part of a symposium titled “Ideas and Action: A Symposium in Honor of George P. Shultz.”

The events were sponsored by the Hoover Institution and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

—Lisa Lapin