“In recognition of his dedication and service to Stony Brook University and his unwavering commitment to our students, this auditorium is named in his honor.”
Philosophy Professor Sidney Gelber left an indelible impact on Stony Brook University and was an intellectual and administrative role model and tutor for countless students and faculty. He served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1968 to 1971 and then as the first provost and academic vice president from 1971 to 1981.
On April 9 guests gathered in the Student Activities Center Auditorium for an official renaming ceremony, dedicating the space in honor of the late Professor Gelber, who passed away in November 2014. After welcome remarks by Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dennis N. Assanis, several colleagues and friends shared their memories and reflections. Distinguished Philosophy Professor Don Ihde commented on Gelber’s many contributions to the field of philosophy, calling him “the father formulator for philosophy in its modern form.” Anthropology Professor William Arens noted that Gelber was respected by every contingent on campus.
Former student Leonard Mell proposed an annual two-day Sidney Gelber Symposium be held in the auditorium that now bears his name. The event would focus on “war, peace and development in our time” and “continue Gelber’s concerns…while helping to reinforce a vital aspect of the University’s mission to help assure a continuation of our democracy and a bright future for our students.”
Colleague James McKenna, former deputy to the provost and academic vice president and an associate professor emeritus from the Department of Hispanic Languages, shared that Professor Gelber was “a gift for people” and he ended every meeting with the phrase, “Feel good; feel good.” He reiterated that Gelber did “make most people feel good, whether they got what they were coming to ask for or not.”
Between speakers, a student string quartet performed an excerpt from Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Gelber and his wife Anita were accomplished musicians and fans of Mozart. Their daughters Alexis and Valerie, along with their families, gathered on stage to close the ceremony, as a plaque was dedicated in their father’s name.
Sidney Gelber led the process for Stony Brook’s initial accreditation by Middle States and authored Politics and Public Higher Education in New York State: Stony Brook—A Case History, the definitive book on the establishment and development of the University. Gelber helped to guide the University through tumultuous years and set Stony Brook on its path toward excellence as one of the top research institutions in the country.
— Lynne Roth