From Maxwell Perspective...

Amazing Lives

A fully renovated and upgraded Eggers Hall public events room now honors the parents of alumnus Joseph Strasser.

In many respects, the story of Joseph Strasser ’53 BA (Hist)/’58 MPA and his parents befits the Maxwell School. It represents triumph over political, religious, and cultural aggression. It rewards courage, compassion, and social vision. It celebrates people and systems that provide a full life to those who deserve one.

Joseph Strasser addressing an audience from behind a podium
Joseph Strasser speaks at the dedication of the Dr. Paul and Natalie Strasser Legacy Room.

And so, in making his latest large gift in support of the School, Strasser asked to memorialize his family’s jour-ney. The public events room in Eggers Hall — fully renovated and upgraded — was rededicated on October 24 as the Dr. Paul and Natalie Strasser Legacy Room.

The Strassers lived in Austria in the run-up to World War II. When Hitler invaded, the family fled to France (where, tragically, mother Natalie became ill and died). In 1940, Paul was able to arrange for young Joseph and his brother, Alex, to board a kindertransport rescue ship. They ultimately arrived in America, where they were joined by their father in 1941, following a cross-Pyrenees escape from France.

“What this drove into me, all along, was to give back.”
— Joseph Strasser

At the rededication ceremony, Syracuse Chancellor Kent Syverud spoke of connections between the Paul and Natalie Strasser story and the Maxwell School’s mission. “It’s so fitting that those two, who sacrificed so much in one of the darkest points during human history, will hold a permanent place of honor at a school dedicated to preparing students for engaged citizenship and wise leadership to produce the brightest points,” Syverud said.

Joseph Strasser then described his family’s difficult immigration to America and its lessons. “It’s an amazing thing that we’re here,” he said. “What this drove into me, all along, was to give back, because we wouldn’t have been here if people hadn’t have done for us.”

Strasser is now among the top five donors to Maxwell. Listing projects Strasser has funded, Dean James Stein-berg said this might be most significant. “This wonderful new room,” he said, “will offer us an opportunity to showcase the exciting work that takes place throughout Maxwell and Syracuse University.”

A committee of faculty members from across Maxwell’s disciplines — chaired by Tina Nabatchi, of Public Administration and International Affairs, and History’s Andrew Cohen — is working to formulate specific Tenth Decade plans. Through the fall, they developed principles for the project that reflect the School’s perspective. Throughout this year, they will work with other faculty members and the Dean’s Office to propose specific initiatives.

According to Linda Birnbaum, assistant dean for advancement, the upcoming details of the Tenth Decade Project will increase already  strong donor support for its emphases.

“Those familiar with the School understand that its approach to citizenship and public service is especially applicable to the complexity of world challenges today,” she says. “People have always been eager to support citizenship education here.

“The project,” she concludes, “will present diverse opportunities for support for citizenship-centered programs at Maxwell.”   

— Dana Cooke

This article appeared in the winter 2015 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2015 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail