Douglas Lloyd

A walking tour of Joe Lampe’s Syracuse University would require sensible shoes, if not hiking boots. It would logically begin on Marshall Street, because that’s where he was born. “It’s not as strange as you might think,” says Lampe ’53, G’55, retiring chair of the SU Board of Trustees. “Huntington Hall, which is now the School of Education building, was a hospital in those days.” The tour would proceed up the Hill to Machinery Hall, where Lampe directed several plays in the old auditorium while majoring in dramatic arts during his undergraduate days. A stroll across the Quad would take you to the bronze sculpture created by the late SU professor Rodger Mack, under a commission by Lampe and his wife, Shawn. Then it’s on to the College of Law, where Lampe earned a J.D. degree. While in the building, you would want to visit the moot court classroom that was among his first major gifts to the University. Before making the trek on Comstock Avenue to the Joseph O. and Shawn Lampe Athletics Complex, you might double back to the Winnick Hillel Center for Jewish Life on Walnut Place, one of the newest buildings on campus, whose construction the Lampes helped fund. Ready for lunch? The Lampe Cafe at the College of Law, of course.

Rising From Syracuse Roots
Joe Lampe and his wife, Shawn, make their home in Phoenix, Arizona, just a couple of thousand miles southwest of campus. Since 1979, Lampe—who has three sons, Scott, Mark ’91, and Stryker —has been chair of Lampe and Company, a diversified real estate development and management company, headquartered in Phoenix. Among his many ventures, Lampe is a partner in the largest owner of mobile home and recreational vehicle parks in the state. He has served as chair of the board of the National Bank of Arizona and Western States Bancshares Inc.

He has not, however, always lived “where the skies are not cloudy all day.” Born on the Hill in the former Hospital of the Good Shepherd (now Huntington Hall), Lampe first lived at the Mayflower Apartments on East Genesee Street. “My dad managed movie theaters for the Schine organization and when I was in fourth grade he was promoted to a job at the company headquarters in Gloversville, New York,” he says. “Despite the fact that my dad never went to college, he was a tremendous Syracuse football fan—and he made me one, too. We’d drive all the way from Gloversville for the home games—and remember, this was before the Thruway was built.” Long before he reached his senior year of high school, Syracuse was Lampe’s only choice for college.

Exploring the possibilities of becoming a film director, Lampe studied dramatic arts with SU’s legendary theater professor, Sawyer Falk. “Anybody who took Sawyer Falk’s course on the history of theater and cinema never forgot it,” Lampe says. “He could hold a hundred students spellbound in a lecture hall, and most of them weren’t even majors. I was also a member of Pi Lambda Phi. I’ve remained close with some of my fraternity brothers, such as Bob Menschel ’51, H’91 [the Goldman Sachs investment banker and SU trustee] and Henry Wells ’54, G’56 [who headed the American Vending Corporation]. I was very much influenced in law school by [associate dean] Bob Miller, who had been a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials.” Lampe served as a member of the Air Force Reserve at Hancock Field while a student and was called to active duty after completing a law degree in 1955.

“When I was separated from the Air Force in 1957, I reached a fork in the road,” he says. “A friend of my father, Lew Wasserman, who headed the Music Corporation of America and Universal Pictures, offered me a job in the legal department. Though I had been around show business most of my life, I realized at that point that I didn’t want to go into entertainment law. I had been stationed in Arizona while in the Air Force and I could see the place was set to grow. So I decided I would practice law in Phoenix and took a shot at it.”

Whether it was instinct or judgment, Lampe’s choice was providential. During the late ’50s, Phoenix was smaller than Syracuse, with a metropolitan population of about 200,000. During the last 50 years, that figure has grown to about 3.5 million, creating a favorable environment for the real estate business, to say the least. “There weren’t many lawyers in Phoenix back when I started, and there were hardly any ‘specialists,’ in the way we think of lawyers today. If you were an attorney, you put out a shingle and did everything—wills, contracts, criminal law, whatever came your way. I think I was among the first to focus on real estate,” says Lampe, who eventually gave up the day-to-day practice of law to become a full-time entrepreneur. “As the population continued to grow and mature, I was well-positioned to see the possibilities for a real estate company, and so I made that area mine.”

But even if you managed to cover these and all the other gifts of glass, brick, mortar, and statuary that Joe Lampe has heaped upon the Hill during a half-century of passionate devotion to all things Orange, you would have merely scratched the surface of his overall contribution to Syracuse University and its students. A fuller picture would begin to emerge by talking to some of the hundreds of Syracuse students whose educations were assured or enhanced by Lampe’s generosity and fund-raising savvy.

Over the years Lampe has personally contributed millions of dollars to SU scholarship endowments, such as the Student-Athlete Fund (which he chairs), the College of Law Scholarship Fund, the Our Time Has Come Scholarship Fund for African American and Latino students, the Boeheim Scholarship, and a dozen others, including the Joseph O. Lampe Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded to the captains of the football and men’s basketball teams. “It means a lot that a man of Mr. Lampe’s stature invests so much in Syracuse athletics,” says SU football captain and quarterback R.J. Anderson ’04, a Lampe scholarship recipient. “He has given us part of his life. We know he truly cares about our program, and it is great to have him with us. We appreciate his support.” Jake Crouthamel, SU’s director of athletics, says, “Because of Joe’s personal support for the athletic program, we have been able to enrich the experience of our student-athletes, enhancing their academic experience and personal development. Just as important, the example he has set for fellow members of the board has provided us with a new, critical dimension of support.” In addition to these personal contributions, Lampe has added tens of millions of dollars more to Syracuse’s scholarship coffers by active participation in major fund-raising efforts.

But even after considering all this, the full magnitude of Lampe’s impact on the life and growth of the University would not be completely apparent. How do you measure the value of a creative builder’s personal commitment of time, energy, and expertise?

Lampe has also been instrumental in helping Syracuse achieve its national profile among the leading contemporary institutions of American higher education. Trustee Emerita Renée Schine Crown ’50, H’84 has known Lampe since the two attended grade school in Gloversville, New York, and was instrumental in bringing him on to the University’s Board of Trustees. “During the 1980s, Joe opened up the West Coast for SU, which was a particularly important achievement,” Crown says. “He revitalized the Southern California Alumni Association and served as its president. He hosted the first of the Newhouse School’s class visits to Hollywood. He created a solid Syracuse identity there. Because of Joe’s efforts, enrollment of students, alumni involvement, and fund raising have all grown tremendously on the West Coast. After he moved back to Phoenix, Joe became active in the Arizona Alumni Association, with similar results.”

As board chair, Lampe reached out in all directions, recruiting new trustees from Georgia, Texas, and Indiana, as well as California. He further enhanced the diversity of the board with the addition of new members from underrepresented groups, including African Americans and women. In 2001, Lampe established the Iris L. Pérez Celis Fund, which provides scholarship opportunities for minority art students at the College of Visual and Performing Arts (see “Sports, the Arts, and SU, at bottom of page”).

Joe has helped us show the world that diversity and quality higher education go hand-in-hand,” says Vice Chancellor and Provost Deborah A. Freund. “During his time as board chair, total applications to Syracuse have risen by 10 percent, and we have seen a 50 percent increase in the proportion of newly admitted students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. The diversity of the student body has increased and we have added many terrific faculty from underrepresented groups as well. Joe has also been a key supporter of the Academic Plan, both creatively and financially. On a personal level, I deeply appreciated Joe’s efforts to welcome me as the University’s first woman vice chancellor, and to make me and my family feel at home in the SU community. In my experience, this type of collegial and compassionate support from a board chair is unusual, if not unprecedented.”

No one appreciates the difference that Lampe has made—and continues to make—for Syracuse more fully than retiring Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw. “Suppose, as a new chancellor, you were told you have a trustee who would institute governance changes to make your board of trustees far more effective, who would travel anywhere for you, and who would work tirelessly to raise funds, as well as make generous donations of his own. Suppose, in addition to all that, this trustee knew the difference between policy and management. You’d think you’d died and gone to heaven. That’s exactly how it’s been for me working with Joe,” Shaw says.

Judging from the frequency with which he is seen on campus, you would think that Lampe lived in nearby Phoenix, New York, rather than in Phoenix, Arizona. A transcontinental commuter, he is an active member of the College of Law’s Board of Visitors, the University’s Society of Fellows, and the Chancellor’s Council. He joined the University Board of Trustees in 1987, was appointed vice chair in 1996, and became board chair in 1997

Trustee Joyce Hergenhan ’63, whom Lampe recruited for the board, says, “Very few people know this, but Joe actually keeps clothes at the University Sheraton; that’s how often he’s in town.” Chancellor Shaw estimates that Lampe travels about 100,000 miles a year, at his own expense, on behalf of the University. “It’s truly remarkable,” Shaw says. “He willingly and cheerfully travels from Arizona to campus or to Lubin House for meetings and other events at least 20 times each year. In addition to Syracuse and New York City, he has traveled on University business to Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Malaysia, England, France, Italy, Spain, Cuba, and throughout Asia.”

When Lampe retires as board chair this summer to become the board’s first chairman emeritus, he will pass on much more than a ceremonial gavel to his successor, John Couri ’63. Among the most salient of Lampe’s accomplishments for the University are a series of reforms in the structure and procedures of the Board of Trustees that he began advocating during his first term of membership. “Fifteen years ago, when I arrived for my first board meeting, I couldn’t even figure out where I was supposed to sit. It was very awkward,” Lampe says. “When I looked at the agenda, I realized there wouldn’t be any time for serious debate; all business was to be taken care of before lunch. It struck me as wasteful. Here was a room full of talented and successful individuals who had traveled to the University from all over the country. I knew the board could be something more than just a rubber stamp.”

Couri, who will assume the chair this summer, is eager to reap further benefits from the revitalized board that Lampe helped create. “Joe leads by example with his enthusiasm as well as his personal generosity,” Couri says. “Under his leadership, attendance at both full board meetings and committee meetings has risen dramatically. We have especially benefited from the mentoring program he created, which pairs new trustees with veterans who can answer questions and help them move swiftly into productive roles. At the same time, he has kept up tradition. We have a lovely dinner each year at which we induct new members. It includes a formal swearing-in, complete with ceremonial robes and all the trappings, with family members in attendance. Joe has done a remarkable job as chair of the board. I’m honored to have been selected to follow in his footsteps.”

Chancellor Shaw agrees. “The list of his accomplishments as chair is long and substantial, but in particular I credit him with making ours a truly functional and forward-thinking governing board,” he says. “Best of all, it has been a distinct pleasure and an honor to work with him these past few years.”


Sports, the Arts, and SU:
A Few of His Favorite Things
Joe Lampe’s love for Syracuse University sports is well known. “He is one fierce fan,” says Trustee Joyce Hergenhan ’63. Relatively few people, however, are aware of Lampe’s equally passionate love for the arts, especially for painting and sculpture. Among Lampe’s favorite artists is Pérez Celis, one of the most popular painters in Argentina, whose dynamic murals grace the walls of the Boca Junior soccer stadium in Buenos Aires. In 2001, Lampe established the Iris L. Pérez Celis Fund, in honor of the artist’s late wife. It provides for a scholarship to be awarded annually to a studio arts major who is a member of a traditionally underrepresented group. The most recent recipient is Paul Valdéz, a senior who is of Mexican descent. “The Pérez Celis scholarship was a great help to me, and I was especially happy to be able to buy several art reference books I needed,” Valdéz says. “But Joseph Lampe’s contribution to my education was more than just financial. By bringing Pérez Celis to Syracuse for two weeks, he gave me the opportunity to work with a great artist.”

Steve Sartori

Board of Trustees Chair Joe Lampe ’53, G’55, left, and Argentine artist Pérez Celis present Oscar Lopez ’02 with the 2002 Iris L. Pérez Celis award.

While on the Hill last spring, the master painter collaborated with Valdéz, Ted Holland ’03, Andrew Sullivan ’05, and Jill Olm G’04 on a work that is now part of the University Art Collection. In March, as the Orangemen shifted into high gear in their race to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, Celis—a sports fan of Lampean proportions—was inspired to create a unique portrait of Coach Jim Boeheim ’66, G’73 and star player Carmelo Anthony ’06. Profits from sales of lithographs of the work went to the Jim Boeheim Scholarship fund. Somehow, everything Lampe has a hand in seems to end up benefiting SU students.

Following his retirement as board chair, Lampe will devote his energies to raising awareness of Latino culture at Syracuse. “Expansion of Latino studies is a very important component of our commitment to diversity,” he says. “Naturally, our goals will include increasing Hispanic enrollment at SU while we intensify efforts to hire more faculty and staff.”
Though he is stepping down from the post he has held for the past six years, it doesn’t appear that Joe Lampe has any plans to stop stepping up for Syracuse.


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