On Sunday, July 21st, Robert M. Morgenthau, Chairman of the Police Athletic League, passed away after a brief illness. He was 99 years old.
Mr. Morgenthau, a distinguished lawyer and revered public servant, served as President or Chairman of the PAL Board of Directors since 1963 – an amazing 57 years of service. During that time, he led PAL through extraordinary growth and accomplishment, and provided nearly two million young people with opportunities for growth. As PAL Vice Chairman Robert McGuire has stated, Mr. Morgenthau’s leadership of our organization plainly made him “the heart and soul” of PAL.
I met Mr. Morgenthau in the early 1980s, when I was seeking a coveted position at the renowned Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, where Mr. Morgenthau served as District Attorney. Despite an imperfect application, Mr. Morgenthau took a chance on me. For the next 26 years, I had the best legal job a person could have, serving the public under a courageous, yet kind and honorable leader. Never again, I thought, would I be so lucky to work for a person like “The Boss,” (as we called him) who was such a brilliant and outstanding public servant, yet generous enough to care about the personal well-being of his staff and their families.
I was proven wrong. In 2014, I hit the professional jackpot, when I was selected to be the Executive Director of PAL, as I would again be working under the leadership of the great Robert M. Morgenthau. His passion for providing New York City youth opportunities for growth and success was palpable. Despite his advancing years, Mr. Morgenthau was actively engaged in all aspects of PAL’s operation, including interacting with children in a PAL journalism club, to participating in the opening of our summer programs, to relentless fundraising. His laser focus and tenacity was always trained on providing more and better experiences for youth.
Mr. Morgenthau often referred to PAL as “a family.” I am grateful and honored to be a member of that family, and to have worked under the direction of Mr. Morgenthau for three decades. I dare say, all associated with PAL owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mr. Morgenthau, for all he has done for us, and the children of New York City.