Memorial Minute: Myron R. Szold ’56

It is hard to describe Myron Szold, hard to put into words the essence of his spirit. As a member of the Oberlin Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee, I found myself at times being asked to explain Myron to new colleagues. “Who is this man?” they’d cry in frustration, “what is going on in this committee, with its wandering conversations and Myron sitting quietly at the head of the table, smiling? What is this?” So here is my attempt to explain.

Myron had a nose, not just a nose for investments, but a nose for people. He had a nose for that special something each person offered. He delighted in the people he knew, valued them and what he could learn from them. On the Investment Committee, Myron brought together people of different skills and widely different personalities, rightly sensing that our best thinking would come from connecting to and hitting against each other. Sometimes I think Myron liked the notion of bumper cars, for the best ideas came when the sparks flew. He conveyed his deep respect for each of us, so that we, too, could be open and listen to the different views.

And quietly, softly, he taught us how to dance together—each of us with different steps, coming together in varying patterns, elegantly moving to and fro around the room—with a bit of syncopation and funky rhythm—all to an underlying theme. It was very subtle, very sophisticated, and oh, so much fun.

Myron delighted in beauty, the quirky, and the vitality around him. He delighted in his wife, Pam, their trips together, their shared interests, their just being together. His eyes would light up whenever he talked of her. I remember getting his invitation to “a raucous celebration of their recent marriage”—they were so thrilled. And we in turn delighted in their joy, in their “aliveness.”

Myron delighted in the arts. I remember walking into his office once, with its collection of New Yorker cartoons on one wall and a stunningly elegant, curved, contemporary rocking chair sitting in welcome. I can still see him smiling in reaction to my delight. Myron delighted in the Old Town Music School in Chicago and its folk music. He loved contemporary dance and celebrated two great loves when he commissioned a piece, Love Stories, for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in celebration of Pam’s 60th birthday.

And Myron had fun. Who else would buy a Jaguar convertible—in Chicago no less—for the sheer joy of it? Who else would drive into Cleveland for dinner, top down, 70 miles an hour or so—in 30 degree weather, heater blasting? Myron would find humor in the strangest places, often stopping a serious discussion dead in its tracks with a keen, apt, and very funny comment. Sometimes it would break the tension, or move us in a totally new direction, and sometimes he’d just leave us wondering, scratching our heads. Myron never took himself too seriously—he might say he didn’t take himself seriously at all.

There was something indescribable about Myron. He was smart, gracious, and elegant, yet he had this fun, funky, off-beat way about him. He had that special something, that joi de vivre, that je ne sais quoi that we all loved so dearly. Maybe it’s just that he loved life. And that was his greatest gift to us all.

Judith Plows ’67 is an Oberlin College trustee.