Maxwell alum Joseph Strasser recipient of 2018 Arents Award
On October 19, Maxwell alumnus Joseph Strasser ’53 BA (History)/’58 MPA, one of
the School’s most significant donors of all
time, received the prestigious 2018 Arents Award,
Syracuse University’s highest alumni honor. A moving video tribute introduced Strasser’s
story, sharing the personal tragedies Strasser endured at a young age, and those
events motivated his lifelong dedication to public service.
“Prior to World War II, Joe and his brother
Alex were growing up in Vienna, Austria,” explains Dean David M. Van Slyke in
the video. “Austria became occupied by the Nazis and Joe’s father took quick
action, and sent Joe and his brother Alex to the United States on a ship with
no family or loved ones, no ability to speak English and landing in New York
City and being taken in by an aunt in Queens.”
Challenged with this
difficult beginning to life in the U.S., Strasser persevered and his efforts in
school brought him to Syracuse University and the Maxwell School. Strasser
graduated cum laude from Syracuse University in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree
“[Joe] had an interest in public
administration, possibly from his time in the ROTC and the Army as a financial
officer,” says Linda Birnbaum, assistant dean for advancement, “and he just
gravitated to that immediately.”
After serving as a finance
officer in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict and then earning a Maxwell
MPA, Strasser started his career as the first budget officer of Savannah,
Georgia. He later served the city of Jacksonville, Florida, holding various
fiscal posts until he retired in 1996.
Since retiring, Strasser has
devoted himself to philanthropy and community service. Earlier this year,
Strasser made a $3-million philanthropic commitment to create a permanently
endowed and named professorship in public administration
at the Maxwell School. This generous gift raised
Strasser’s total giving to Maxwell to more than $6 million — a remarkable
figure for a life-long public servant.
When accepting the award, Strasser began by
honoring his late brother, Dr. Alexander Strasser, also a Syracuse University
alum. Strasser spoke about his time in Germany and his philanthropic commitment
to education and the welfare of animals and concluded by thanking Dean Van
Slyke and Chancellor Kent Syverud.
Watch the tribute video to Joseph Strasser ’53 BA (History)/’58 MPA.